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August 27, 2013


L’Eglise Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais

by soundlandscapes

DEDICATED TO THE 2nd century Italian martyrs Gervasius and Protasius, the Eglise Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais is one of the oldest churches in Paris and it’s to be found in the 4th arrondissement, just east of the Hôtel de Ville.


There has been a church on this site since the 4th century but work on the present church was begun in 1494. The chapels of the apse were finished in 1530 and the transept in 1578.


The early building is in the Gothic style but the western front of the church was built in the classical style. It was completed in 1620.


The Eglise Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais is home to a fine French Baroque style organ built by François-Henri Clicquot. The organ was restored in the 1970’s but seventeen of the forty-one organ stops remain from the 17th century and fifteen from the 18th century, including all the reeds. All the wind-chests date from before the French revolution.


Perhaps the most celebrated organist of l’Eglise Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais was the French Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist, François Couperin.


The church also boasts two other, much smaller, chapel organs.


On 29 March 1918, a German shell fired by the long-range “Paris Gun“, fell on the church during a Good Friday service killing 88 people and wounding 68 others. This was the worst single incident involving the loss of civilian lives during the German bombardment of Paris in 1918.

In 1975, l’Eglise Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais became the headquarters of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem founded by Père Pierre-Marie Delfieu. Devoted to monastic life in an urban context, most of its members work part-time in civil occupations.


I went into l’Eglise Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais recently. As always, I had a sound recorder with me but the sounds I recorded were not the sounds of a service taking place or the sounds of the François-Henri Clicquot organ. Instead, they were quite unexpected sounds.

Sounds inside l’Eglise Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais:

Yes, I recorded the sounds of the other visitors in the church, their footsteps and their chatter, but the sounds that captivated me were the fascinating sounds of this creaking wooden door.


From now on, these rather haunting sounds are the sounds I shall always associate with l’Eglise Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais. I can’t help wondering if François Couperin would recognise them.


6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aug 27 2013

    That was a great piece of recording – I really enjoyed that squeaky door lol 🙂

    • Aug 28 2013

      Thanks Alastair. The sounds of the door came as an unexpected but delicious surprise.

  2. Aug 27 2013

    Surely there is someone in distress inside that door’s pneumatic closer! I love the street past the apse end of this church and go out of my way to walk on it when I am in the neighborhood.

    • Aug 28 2013

      Thanks Richard. Yes, the rue des Barres is a quintessential Parisian street and well worth a visit.

  3. hmunro
    Aug 27 2013

    Can you imagine being a parishioner here, and approaching this door with dread, knowing that your late arrival at mass will be announced by the old door’s wail? I loved your truly unexpected recording, as well as your wonderful historical tidbits. Lovely photos, too, by the way — especially that first shot of the rue des Barres. I’ve never visited in the summer, so I’ve never seen that petit endroit looking so festive!

    • Aug 28 2013

      Thanks Heather. I love the picture you paint of the parishioner arriving late for mass. I hadn’t thought of that. Yes, the rue des Barres is a delightful street, especially in the summer. On the day I went though it was a tad too hot for me.


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