There’s a beautiful church in Montmartre that was a revelation (ha ha) to me on my recent visit in Paris. Here it is:
The church is Saint Jean de Montmartre.
I think it is fair to say I’ve spent a lot of time visiting churches, to study Renaissance architecture, sculpture, and paintings. But, this church in Montmartre was the first ever Art Nouveau church I’ve ever seen and it was as lovely as it was interesting.
So, here’s what Wikipedia shares about this interesting church:
The Church of Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre is located at 19 Rue des Abbesses in the 18th arrondissement. Situated at the foot of Montmartre, it is notable as the first example of reinforced concrete in church construction. Built from 1894 through 1904, it was designed by architect Anatole de Baudot, a student of Viollet-le-Duc and Henri Labrouste. The brick and ceramic tile-faced structure exhibits features of Art Nouveau design while exploiting the superior structural qualities of reinforced concrete with lightness and transparency. The Art Nouveau stained glass was executed by Jac Galland according to the design of Pascal Blanchard. Interior sculpture was by Pierre Roche.
The reinforced concrete structure followed a system developed by the engineer Paul Cottancin. Construction was attended by skepticism over the properties of the new material, which violated rules laid down for unreinforced masonry construction. A lawsuit delayed construction, resulting in a demolition order that was not resolved until 1902, when construction was resumed.
There is a guided tour of the church on every fourth Sunday of the month at 4:00 PM.
The Church of Saint-Jean-Montmartre was commissioned by Montmartre priest Father Sobbeaux. The population of the town was growing and the only other abbey church, Saint-Pierre de Montmartre was too small. Saint-Pierre de Montmartre was located at the top hill of Montmartre, and could only serve those living up there. The new church was part of Fr. Sobbeaux’s personal mission to evangelize the population of the lower part of the hill, and he was responsible for raising all the funds for construction.
Using reinforced concrete on Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre resulted in the church being quite ahead of its time and, and building codes had not caught up yet. Cottancin’s system was so new and revolutionary, it was difficult for people to believe the structure would actually stand. Even other architects opposed the plan, and believed it would collapse.
The church was built in ten years, the reason for it taking so long was because construction had to be stopped as a result of a lawsuit filed in 1898 due to ” non-conformity of town planning”.
Next came an order for the demolition of the building. This resulted in the performance of innumerable tests to ensure the structural integrity of the building. To save the church, Baudot and Sobbeaux set up technical demonstrations. They recreated the pillars and flagstone floor in the garden of the church to prove the strength and stability of the building. This demonstration reassured the skeptics and the order for the destruction of the church was lifted.
Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre is the first religious building to be made from concrete, understandably there was some concern over the aesthetic qualities of the material. The red brick facade, is used for decoration as well as additional support an insulation. The exterior is also embellished with geometric designs made from multicolored sandstone pearls. Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre is in the architectural style art nouveau, one of the few Parisian churches in this style. The theme of the exterior and interior design is based off the writings of St. John- The fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse.