Splendor of St. Sulpice
Second in size only to Notre Dame, the Église Saint Sulpice in the city’s sixth arrondissment was built between 1646 and 1760 by a succession of architects—Christophe Gamard, Louis Le Vau, Daniel Gittard, and Gilles-Marie Oppenord—and later modified by Giovanni-Nicolo Servandoni. The notable landmark served as the backdrop for the baptisms of such luminaries as Charles Baudelaire and the Marquis de Sade, as well as the 1822 nuptials of Victor Hugo and Adèle Fouché.
Beyond its imposing architecture, the church is renowned for its fantastic murals by Eugene Delacroix; its Chapel of Angels, just beyond the main altar; as well as its extraordinary pipe organ, which has been played by many famed French musicians, including César Franck, Camille Saint-Saens, Charles-Marie Widor, and Marcel Dupré. On the right side of the choir is a chamber—originally built as a side chapel, but subsequently appropriated for use as a sacristy, or room where members of the clergy prepare for mass, sometime around 1730. At that time, its interior was substantially modified to accommodate its new ecclesiastical function, one which it continues to serve to this day. A wall was erected to separate the once-open chapel from the sanctuary’s nave. It is thought that Jean-Frederic Phélipeaux (1705–1777), Count of Maurepas and the first church warden of the parish of Saint-Sulpice, may have commissioned the ornate gilded woodwork, which lines the sacristy’s walls. Gilles-Marie Oppenord and Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier, two of France’s best-known “ornemanistes,” are often associated with 38 by Bertrand du Vignaud this decor, while the Slodtz brothers, well-known artists in court of Louis XV, were responsible for the wooden balcony above the sacristy entrance. A few years earlier, the latter had worked with Servandoni and François Lemoine on the chapel of the Virgin.