YOU ARE STANDING
in the church of SAINT-LEU-SAINT-GILLES
92 rue Saint-Denis, first arrondissement of Paris
Rue St-Denis was originally part of the great pilgrimage route to the Abbey of St-Denis, built on the tomb of Saint Denis, Bishop of Paris. It was the route taken by the kings of France after their coronation when they made their solemn entry into the city of Paris. It was also used by the royal funeral corteges, bearing the bodies of kings for burial in the Abbey.
The Abbey of St-Magloire, established in 1120 by monks from the He de la Cite, once stood between numbers 84 and 92 of the Rue St-Denis. As early as the 12th century, a chapel dedicated to Saint Gilles was located within the monastery for the use of the local people. Saint Gilles was a 7th century hermit from Provence, whose feast is celebrated on September first. In 1235, it was decided to build a church in his honour outside the monastery itself. The name of Saint Leu (Saint Loup), Bishop of Sens, whose feast also falls on September first, was added.
Circa 1320, construction began on a new church. The placement of the old choir is marked by the two arched stone bays. The other bays are covered with a visible frame. The present choir was built in 1611 and remodelled during the 19th century. The side aisles were remodelled in 1727. Plaster vaults were constructed for the first four bays after the pattern of the stone bays. When the Boulevard Sebastopol was opened in 1857, the apse of the church was removed. Baltard was entrusted with the ensuing alterations: the side chapels; the remodelling of the ambulatory, the construction of annexes in the Rue de la Grande Truanderie, and the redecoration of the choir. Apart from some details on the church façade, little is left of the original building.
Since 1820, the church of St-Leu has been the capitular church of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, who continue to assemble there. It was they who enabled the relics of Saint Helena, formerly in the Abbey of Hautvilliers near Epernay, to be brought to St-Leu and housed in the reliquary at the foot of the altar crucifix.
The area around St-Leu has undergone extensive transformation since the demolition of « Les Halles ». It was the wish of the Church of Paris that a renewed Christian presence be established in this area, which serves as a passage between the Forum des Halles and the Georges Pompidou Centre. Several years ago, a Community composed of priests, Dominican nuns, and lay people was established there. Some of the lay people live in the neighbourhood; others come from various part of Paris or from the suburbs. All of them desire to express their faith through the liturgy, various forms of prayer and fraternal life, and through their availability and hospitality towards the people of the quarter and passers-by.
They endeavour to welcome and witness to the presence of God among men.
For further information, you mil find someone at your service at the reception desk.