If you’re like me, you may have walked past the Saint-Merri church and not have given it a second thought. Located just off of rue Martin, near the Centre Pompidou, the church is shrouded in scaffolding and looks–in a word–dirty. I’m mildly embarrassed by how many times I’ve walked by and not even noticed it (though I did notice the beggar permanently installed at the entrance).
Friends, this church is well worth visiting! Not only is it beautiful inside, but it also has a rich history. Built between 1500 and 1550, Saint-Merri was constructed in an ornate Gothic style at the site of a 12th-century church. Despite being at the epicenter of the French Revolution and surviving two world wars, the church has retained its 18th-century organ and many of its original 16th-century stained glass windows still survive. It also houses the oldest bell in Paris, which was cast in 1331.
Its domed ceilings are gorgeous, letting in natural light that illuminates the church’s many sculptures. They also have a special art exhibition on view, which is a young artist’s response to various quotations from scripture. I got the sense that the parish prides itself on embracing diversity, reflecting the neighborhood in which its located.
Touring the l’Eglise Saint-Merri only takes a few minutes, but it’s well worth stopping by if you happen to be in the vicinity. Don’t be fooled, as I was, by the less-than-attractive facade!
76 Rue de la Verrerie
Metro: Hotel de Ville or Chatelet