The choir screen
A noticeable item in the church, this choir screen built in the first years of the sixteenth century is the only one still visible in Paris.
In the Middle Ages, the choir screen is both a gate separating the choir where monks and canons stand from the nave where lay persons attend, and a gallery from which is proclaimed the Holy Word (hence its French name “jubé”, first word of the Latin prayer by which the lecturer requests the priest’s blessing : «jube, domine, benedicere…» : “Please, Lord, bless me…”).
In order to make the liturgy visible to the whole congregation, most choir screens were dismantled in the eighteenth century.
This choir screen combines a gothic structure and a fully-fledged Renaissance decoration. The railing is a twining of stone lace, carved in a limestone from Saint-Leu.
Two openwork staircases coil themselves around the pillars, leading both to the choir screen and the gallery, the purpose of which, if not for decoration, is unclear.
Although we have kept records of almost all the craftsmen who took part in the building, oddly we do not know who designed this masterpiece.
The beautiful Christ on the cross which hangs on top of the choir screen, carved by Ulrich von Grienewald, is a remnant of the chapel of the nearby Ecole Polytechnique, dismantled in 1830.
The choir screen and the keystone are a beautiful setting for the contemporary altar designed by the French company Cheret.
Before the French Revolution in 1789, the church owned a rich collection of paintings and tapestries which was thoroughly scattered. As such, all existing artworks result in reconstitutions. Two outstanding paintings are ex-votos to Saint Genevieve, by Nicolas de Largillière (1696) and Jean-François de Troy (1726).
The organ case was assembled and carved in 1631 by Jehan Buron, master-joiner. It is the oldest one in Paris, still in its original state.
Only some of the 7,000 pipes, ranging from 3 mm to 5.5 m high, are visible. Arranged in 90 stops, it is ranked as the fifth organ in Paris.
Among organ makers who worked in Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, we can mention : Pierre Pescheur, designer of the original instrument of which nothing remains, François-Henri Cliquot (1772), and Cavaillé Coll (1863).
This instrument had many well-known players such as Maurice Duruflé. Born in 1902, he had tenure from age 28 until his death in 1986.
The current holder is Thierry Escaich, winner of the 2002 and 2006 “Victoire de la Musique” awards, and Vincent Warnier.
The pulpit, carved in 1651, replaced the choir screen as the preaching point. It is a fine example of baroque art with its emphatic features. Sculptures are by Lestocard who based himself on drawings by La Hire.
The barrel is upheld by a mighty figure of Samson ; seven feminine figures around the barrel, inspired from classical models, symbolize cardinal and theological virtues.
The panels around the pulpit tell Saint Stephen’s story, alternating with ovals displaying the four Evangelists and two great Doctors of the Church, saint Hieronymus and saint Augustine.
Saint Genevieve chapel
As the relics of the saint were burnt during the French Revolution by the town officials, and the shrine was melted down, the church houses (since the beginning of the nineteenth century) relics of the saint that had been stored in other churches since the ninth century. The existing great shrine contains the remaining stones of the initial sarcophagus where her body had been laid.
Built in 1853, the chapel is a good example of neo-gothic style. The stained-glasses (1869) tell the story of the saint whose memory is still revived : every year from January 3 to 11, Saint Genevieve’s novena (Latin for “9 days”) celebrates her memory.
Visit more : the stained glasses