When we traveled to France one of the must-do items on our list was a visit to the Church of Saint Sulpice in the Saint Germain des Pres area in the 6th arrondissement. More specifically Charlie wanted to see the organ and hear it being played throughout the church.
We left the 15th arrondissement at 9 a.m. and caught the Metro to Saint Sulpice station. Just across the street from Place Saint Sulpice we had a very French breakfast at Saint Sulpice Cafe de la Mairie. Charlie had an omelette and I enjoyed my croissant.
The bells of Saint Sulpice toll at 10:15 to summoning us to the service. Saint Sulpice, the second largest church in Paris, was all but finished being built in 1780. It had taken more than a century and 6 architects to bring it to completion.
We happened to attend a church service on Scout Sunday.
The Boy and Girl Scouts lined in formation in the fountained plaza before church began.
At 10:30 the organ prelude began. The organ, one of the largest in the world, was built between 1776 and 1781. We sat at the back right side of the church so Charlie could be with the first group of people allowed into the organ loft after the service at 12:05. Only 15 people are allowed up to the organ at one time and a queue does form. (I was tending our luggage so I missed the opportunity.)
Toward the end of the service the parishioners were serious about passing the peace greeting each person around them with “La paix du Christ”. Charlie went over to wait by the organ loft door and found some like-minded people to chat with, then up the winding stairs to the loft where Daniel Roth, the organist since the late 1980s, held court with his assistants.
I know it was exciting for Charlie, who is an organist, to see this grand dame. Can you imagine what it would sound like if they “pulled out all the stops”?(Did you know that organ stops, which make different instrument sounds, are the origin of that phrase?)
While Charlie was in the organ loft I ventured outside where the Veilleurs of the church were serving Muscat, orange juice and soda.
The music both during the service and the concert afterward (which happens weekly) filled the church and bounced off the stone walls to create an enveloping wall of sound. As I sat in Saint Sulpice waiting for the concert to end and Charlie to return I noticed the floor grates which are really lovely. I sketched a small drawing of them and made a rubbing just in case I needed inspiration in the future.
We left the church well after the appointed time and walked around the neighborhood before heading up to our apartment in Le Marais.
Do you visit off-the-beaten-track sites when you travel? What can you recommend?