Around the corner from everyone’s favourite English bookstore in Paris is Saint-Séverin church. I came upon it by accident while aimlessly wandering, and only realised where I was when I looked up at the large building dwarfing me on the narrow street.
Saint-Séverin made its way onto my ever-growing list of “must visits” for the city years ago, but I hadn’t managed to fit it in yet. This was the perfect time for me to check it out. I headed for the entrance and as soon as I walked through the door, I was impressed.
Saint-Séverin is one of the oldest remaining churches on Paris’ Left Bank. Its gone through several changes over the centuries but the oratory was built over the tomb of Séverin of Paris. The story goes that Séverin of Paris, a devout hermit, lived on the banks of the River Seine during the first half of the fifth century. Interestingly, it was also on this burial ground that the first ever recorded surgery for gallstones was performed in 1451. I won’t lie.. even thoughthe patient reportedly survive, I’m happy it wasn’t me!
The impressive 18th century organ was playing while I was there. It sounded lovely, and if I could figure out a way to post mobile phone videos on WP without them looking and sounding like garbage, I’d share a clip – if anyone has any suggestions, I welcome them!
Saint-Séverin also boasts carved columns in its double ambulatory (the walkway behind the high altar that links each side of the church, in the simplest of explanations) which many people say resembles a dense forest of palm trees.
I mean, I kind of see what they’re saying. Impressive, regardless.
Let’s continue our walk through the church..
Look at the finish on this pillar. It is obviously really old. I wish I knew more about its history.
Perhaps it’s only me but I’m always a tad shocked to see human bones on display.
I’ve since learned that these are part of the skeletal remains of Saint Ursula, who was a martyr of Cologne. According to Wikipedia..
Her legendary status comes from a medieval story that she was a princess who, at the request of her father King Dionotus of Dumnonia in south-west Britain, set sail along with 11,000 virginal handmaidens to join her future husband, the pagan governor Conan Meriadoc of Armorica. After a miraculous storm brought them over the sea in a single day to a Gaulish port, Ursula declared that before her marriage she would undertake a pan-European pilgrimage. She headed for Rome with her followers and persuaded the Pope, Cyriacus (unknown in the pontifical records, though from late 384 AD there was a Pope Siricius), and Sulpicius, bishop of Ravenna, to join them. After setting out for Cologne, which was being besieged by Huns, all the virgins were beheaded in a massacre. The Huns’ leader fatally shot Ursula with a bow and arrow in about 383 AD
Yikes! I’m surprised that this hasn’t been made into an Hollywood movie.
I’ll leave you with my personal favourite image from my visit. I stood at the entrance to this alcove for several minutes taking everything in, from the late sunlight and shadows to the minute details. I was enamoured.
I’ll be back tomorrow for a quick walk around the exterior of Saint-Séverin.
What’s your favourite Paris church? Share below in the comments.