0 Items
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

It almost seems like everywhere you turn in Paris, you can spot a Catholic church. With France’s strong Catholic history, it makes sense that throughout the years, more and more churches have popped up across the city (and the country). With the oldest church dating back to the 6th century, you’re promised a historical, cultural, and architectural tour through the ages as you visit many of Paris’ most famous Catholic churches. Here are some of my favorites, and why they shouldn’t be missed on any trip to the City of Lights.

Germain des Pres, France

The oldest church in Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Saint-Germain-des-Prés is the oldest church in Paris, originally founded in 543 and was one of the first Gothic-style buildings in the city – it even used to house a piece of the True Cross! I discovered this church because it was the parish of my Host Mom when I studied abroad in Paris in 2014. After learning that I was also Catholic, she invited me to attend Mass with her one Sunday at Saint-Germain-des-Prés. After mainly going to Mass at the more touristic churches of Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur, it was such a blessing to go to a Mass primarily attended by Parisian parish members and to see their community in action. A fun fact about this church is that not only is it the oldest church in Paris, but it also has the oldest bell tower in Paris, which was built between 990 and 1170! After your visit, be sure to grab lunch at the famous Café de Flore right next door and enjoy the rest of this picturesque neighborhood.

Sainte Chapelle, France

Sainte Chapelle’s most stunning components are the stained glass scenes depicting the Old and New Testaments.

Sainte Chapelle may look small and unassuming from the outside compared to many other churches in the city, especially since it’s hard to see in its entirety from the road. However it is without a doubt the most beautiful church interior that I have ever seen. Built in 1248, Sainte Chapelle also represents the Gothic-style, but the centuries between its construction and that of Saint-Germain-des-Prés presents noticeable differences in how the style evolved over time. Its most stunning components are the 15 windows, each 15 meters high, with stained glass depicting 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The church was originally built to house precious relics, including the crown of thorns which had been acquired by Saint Louis, and so the stained-glass windows recount the history of the Christianity and world until the arrival of the relics in Paris. After your visit, take a nice short stroll to the other island in the Seine, Ile Saint-Louis, to experience the best ice cream in Paris at Berthillon.

Sacre Couer, France

Sacre Coeur, with one of the most stunning exteriors, is one of the newest churches in Paris.

If Sainte Chapelle has the most stunning interior, then Sacre Coeur has the most stunning exterior, at least in my opinion! As one of the newest churches in Paris, the Sacre Coeur sits on top of one of Paris’ few hills to be seen from all around the city. The picturesque white façade of the Basilica is unique for its time – the church was constructed in the late 1800s, but the architecture is most similar to the much older Romano-Byzantine style. The Basilica was originally built with the intention of “reparations” for France’s political decisions during the country’s war with Germany in 1870. The first stone was laid in 1875 and 10 years later began perpetual adoration in the church, which continues to this day. Put on your walking shoes when you go to visit, as you’re sure to get your exercise walking up the 222 steps that lead to the church (or of course you can always take the funicular)! Sacre Coeur sits in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris – Montmartre. Known for being an artists’ neighborhood, as well as for its windmills and cobble stone streets, be sure not to miss walking around this charming area and grabbing an espresso at La Maison Rose after your visit to the Basilica.

Last but certainly not least is the Notre Dame de Paris. The magnificent cathedral sites on the same island as Sainte Chapelle, Ile de la Cité, and was built in the 12th century in the Gothic style. The design of the cathedral is similar to many other “Notre Dames” across France, such as the ones in Rouen and Chartres. Unfortunately the interior of the church is currently closed to visitors (and will be until at least 2024) following the tragic fire that occurred in April 2019. However you’re still able to appreciate the exterior of this iconic church and guided tours are available for outdoor visits. When I lived in Paris in 2014, I was only a 10-minute walk away from Notre Dame and was able to attend Daily Mass there frequently. I always felt equally anxious and also like part of an exclusive club when I would pass the line of tourists waiting to enter the Cathedral to say “Je suis ici pour la messe” (I am here for the Mass) to be allowed in without waiting! Another highlight of the Notre Dame is the Treasury – full of sacred vessels, ornaments, liturgical books, and even relics. Although you won’t be able to sneak past the line to attend Mass or visit the Treasury in the next few years due to the restoration after the fire, you can keep these tips in your back pocket for your next visit – what a great excuse to return to Paris again and again!

Notre Dame, France

Gracie Rosenbach poses in front of Notre Dame de Paris.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit these churches and more on the upcoming Select International tour, Saints and Shrines of France (and if October is too soon, you can always go next year)! You’ll even have the chance to visit the Notre Dame Cathedrals in Rouen and Chartres to compare them to the one in Paris. And beyond the beautiful cathedrals and basilicas, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of the saints – with St. Thérèse in Lisieux and St. Bernadette in Lourdes. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to explore the rich Catholic history of this amazing country and the City of Lights.

It almost seems like everywhere you turn in Paris, you can spot a Catholic church. With France’s strong Catholic history, it makes sense that throughout the years, more and more churches have popped up across the city (and the country). With the oldest church dating back to the 6th century, you’re promised a historical, cultural, and architectural tour through the ages as you visit many of Paris’ most famous Catholic churches. Here are some of my favorites, and why they shouldn’t be missed on any trip to the City of Lights.

Germain des Pres, France

The oldest church in Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Saint-Germain-des-Prés is the oldest church in Paris, originally founded in 543 and was one of the first Gothic-style buildings in the city – it even used to house a piece of the True Cross! I discovered this church because it was the parish of my Host Mom when I studied abroad in Paris in 2014. After learning that I was also Catholic, she invited me to attend Mass with her one Sunday at Saint-Germain-des-Prés. After mainly going to Mass at the more touristic churches of Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur, it was such a blessing to go to a Mass primarily attended by Parisian parish members and to see their community in action. A fun fact about this church is that not only is it the oldest church in Paris, but it also has the oldest bell tower in Paris, which was built between 990 and 1170! After your visit, be sure to grab lunch at the famous Café de Flore right next door and enjoy the rest of this picturesque neighborhood.

Sainte Chapelle, France

Sainte Chapelle’s most stunning components are the stained glass scenes depicting the Old and New Testaments.

Sainte Chapelle may look small and unassuming from the outside compared to many other churches in the city, especially since it’s hard to see in its entirety from the road. However it is without a doubt the most beautiful church interior that I have ever seen. Built in 1248, Sainte Chapelle also represents the Gothic-style, but the centuries between its construction and that of Saint-Germain-des-Prés presents noticeable differences in how the style evolved over time. Its most stunning components are the 15 windows, each 15 meters high, with stained glass depicting 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The church was originally built to house precious relics, including the crown of thorns which had been acquired by Saint Louis, and so the stained-glass windows recount the history of the Christianity and world until the arrival of the relics in Paris. After your visit, take a nice short stroll to the other island in the Seine, Ile Saint-Louis, to experience the best ice cream in Paris at Berthillon.

Sacre Couer, France

Sacre Coeur, with one of the most stunning exteriors, is one of the newest churches in Paris.

If Sainte Chapelle has the most stunning interior, then Sacre Coeur has the most stunning exterior, at least in my opinion! As one of the newest churches in Paris, the Sacre Coeur sits on top of one of Paris’ few hills to be seen from all around the city. The picturesque white façade of the Basilica is unique for its time – the church was constructed in the late 1800s, but the architecture is most similar to the much older Romano-Byzantine style. The Basilica was originally built with the intention of “reparations” for France’s political decisions during the country’s war with Germany in 1870. The first stone was laid in 1875 and 10 years later began perpetual adoration in the church, which continues to this day. Put on your walking shoes when you go to visit, as you’re sure to get your exercise walking up the 222 steps that lead to the church (or of course you can always take the funicular)! Sacre Coeur sits in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris – Montmartre. Known for being an artists’ neighborhood, as well as for its windmills and cobble stone streets, be sure not to miss walking around this charming area and grabbing an espresso at La Maison Rose after your visit to the Basilica.

Last but certainly not least is the Notre Dame de Paris. The magnificent cathedral sites on the same island as Sainte Chapelle, Ile de la Cité, and was built in the 12th century in the Gothic style. The design of the cathedral is similar to many other “Notre Dames” across France, such as the ones in Rouen and Chartres. Unfortunately the interior of the church is currently closed to visitors (and will be until at least 2024) following the tragic fire that occurred in April 2019. However you’re still able to appreciate the exterior of this iconic church and guided tours are available for outdoor visits. When I lived in Paris in 2014, I was only a 10-minute walk away from Notre Dame and was able to attend Daily Mass there frequently. I always felt equally anxious and also like part of an exclusive club when I would pass the line of tourists waiting to enter the Cathedral to say “Je suis ici pour la messe” (I am here for the Mass) to be allowed in without waiting! Another highlight of the Notre Dame is the Treasury – full of sacred vessels, ornaments, liturgical books, and even relics. Although you won’t be able to sneak past the line to attend Mass or visit the Treasury in the next few years due to the restoration after the fire, you can keep these tips in your back pocket for your next visit – what a great excuse to return to Paris again and again!

Notre Dame, France

Gracie Rosenbach poses in front of Notre Dame de Paris.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit these churches and more on the upcoming Select International tour, Saints and Shrines of France (and if October is too soon, you can always go next year)! You’ll even have the chance to visit the Notre Dame Cathedrals in Rouen and Chartres to compare them to the one in Paris. And beyond the beautiful cathedrals and basilicas, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of the saints – with St. Thérèse in Lisieux and St. Bernadette in Lourdes. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to explore the rich Catholic history of this amazing country and the City of Lights.

About the Author

Gracie Rosenbach is an international development professional who is passionate about travel and loves experiencing the beauty of Catholicism all over the world. Working in international food policy by day and sharing stories of the Universal Church on her Instagram and blog by night, Gracie hopes that her experiences meeting new people and visiting Catholic sites around the globe will inspire your wanderlust and help you to grow deeper in your faith.

Do You Want a FREE Guide to Discerning Pilgrimage?

Sign up here, and we will send you a beautiful ebook by author and Select International Tour Pilgrimage Group Leader Stephen J. Binz. Inside, you will learn about many of the sacred sites in the Holy Land with guided readings, prayers, and reflections. 

Please check your email to download your ebook. If it lands in your SPAM or PROMOTIONS folder, please move it to the inbox.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This