as an iconic Parisian religious landmark, always second to Notre Dame.
Saint-Sulpice is not just another "must-see" you're
expected to check off your to-do list.
I'm here to tell you it's so much more than an assembly of stones and holy water.
Recently spiffed up and clean as a whistle, the church and the fountain
set the scene as you approach the square.
And then it hits you.
As Aristotle once said,
"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
That pretty much defines this corner of Paris heaven.
The collective impact of Place Saint-Sulpice's synergy
is the french kiss you'll long remember.
The complex alliance of cathedral, fountain, grand mansions, shops,
people, -- even the single café -- contribute to the thrill of its first impression.
A perfect Paris moment in the ultimate Paris square.
Place Saint-Sulpice is an address that will help define your perception
of The City of Light and the unexpected delights that surround you.
(second only to Notre Dame) as well as its unusual towers.
The first time I laid eyes on its mismatched towers, I laughed out loud.
If you've ever known anyone who has said
"once you've seen one, you've seen them all", you can tell them au contraire!
The strikingly dissimilar towers (both in height and decoration)
will confound you at first look and delight you at second.
In an age of xeroxed perfection, it's refreshing to witness such mad mystery.
What's behind the offbeat architecture?
In actuality, the difference in the two towers came down to -- what else -- money.
Whatever the story, the outcome is pure comedy.
Six different architects put their personal touch on the edifice
over the course of its construction (130+ years!) so who knows,
maybe one wanted tall and blonde
and the other one liked short & sassy ....
Not everyone will see the beauty -- but at least no one
will be blasé about this curious spectacle.
Construction began in 1646 but the builders ran out of funds twenty years later. Decades passed before building resumed.
New architects, new money, fresh inspiration and by 1780,
the House of God was nearly complete.
Except for those darned towers.
The south tower was never finished.
The remainder of the facade is quietly classic, offering three tiers
of columns that will remind you why you came to Paris in the first place.
It just works.
Inside, the church is a masterpiece of French Baroque.
Capped off by one of the world's largest pipe organs,
you can still find music reverberating throughout the holy hub
every single Sunday of the year.
Threaded with over 6500 pipes and five layers of keyboards,
your ears will be treated to rapturous notes and uncommon melodies.
The sounds are majestic.
If you're expecting to see an albino monk-assassin pop out
from behind the pulpit, you'll be deeply disappointed.
Yes, there is a meridian line in full sight that leads to an obelisk,
but it's not Dan Brown's fictional version.
The brouhaha involves the intriguing brass line leading to the obelisk
that wears a funny hat -- an instrument (called a gnomon) used by astronomers
and mathematicians in the 18th century to determine the date of Easter.
Saint-Sulpice has posted a disclaimer that the rose line and the
Da Vinci-like story does not exist behind its walls.
Rats, I love a good story.
But the writing kingpin is missing a few facts.
The gnomon is an astronomical measuring device that casts a shadow
on the floor in order to measure the sun.
No, me neither.
I read every word in Wikipedia that explained the calculations
and have decided it's best left to keener minds than mine.
If you like Brown's story (and who doesn't), go ahead and
keep searching for The Holy Grail.
The Louvre isn't far from here....
In the meanwhile, walk over to the side Chapel of the Angels
(just inside the front doors) and find Eugene Delacroix's murals.
He's the French Romantic artist best known for his work, Liberty Leading the People.
Jacob Wrestling the Angels and Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple
are two of the three examples of his post Revolution efforts at Saint-Sulpice.
Behind the altar is a statue of the Virgin and Child (by Jean Baptiste Pigalle)
with rays of light seeming to stream all around them.
Victor Hugo was married in this magnificent church and several
famous citizens were christened, perhaps in the same
sculpted shells that still today hold the holy water.
is an enormous fountain dead center of the square.
It's a beauty.
Fontaine des Quatre Éveques (Fountain of the Four Bishops)
was built by Joachim Visconti in the mid-1840's.
It's the touchstone of the square, evidenced by locals and tourists
alike who seem drawn to its sparkling waters.
In the summer, the square sometimes hosts brocantes (antiques markets)
and book fairs which liven up the already inviting atmosphere.
Look around the square.
Local kids are at play, folks are stopping to check their cell phones,
dogs are walking their well-worn path.
This is a neighborhood, an authentic chance to see the real Paris.
Place Saint-Sulpice is not choked with tourists -- and even though it's on every visitor's agenda, you never get the feeling of being hemmed in by too many crowds.
Everyone needs a breather from time to time and this fine square, in the
wealthy 6th arrondissement, is a great spot for people watching.
Walk every inch.
Study the window displays.
You'll find mega-designer Yves Saint Laurent's chichi boutique,
Annick Goutal's fragrant shop, and even a store specializing in all things
Catholic -- all mixed in with gorgeous (and pricey!) residences, allegedly
including the townhouse of film legend Catherine Deneuve.
Take refuge in the perfectly placed Café de la Marie.
Sip an espresso slowly.
You'll feel like you're on a movie set.
You may never get up again -- although I recommend you do since
so many nearby streets have temptations
that will make your Paris fantasies come alive.
Pierre Hermé macarons, rue Guisarde .....
I'll save the rest for another day.
I double-dog-dare-you to not have a good time.
My best days all have one thing in common -- the unexpected.
That's why the lopsided towers of Saint-Sulpice and the street
scene that surrounds it offer so much to a Paris visitor.
Spare us the featureless, emotionless monuments.
We get enough sameness in our everyday lives.
Give us some attitude; throw in some quirky.
We want more cross-eyed splendors like Place Saint-Sulpice.
For some, it's the food.
Others are inspired by art and architecture or history or fashion.
For me, I think it's mostly for these types of moments,
the little glimpses of life lived elsewhere.
It jump-starts my imagination and makes me hungry for more.
Life is grand -- but you have to work at it.
A spirited existence is what we all desire and seeing "the other side"
adds joy and dimension to our own essence.
I can't tolerate indifference.
You don't need to experience a moon landing to feel vital and complete.
Sometimes the ticket to heaven is as simple as a cup of coffee at the local café.
Ok, so here it's served in one of the most amazing neighborhoods
in Paris, but I hope you get the picture -- and the chance to experience it.
"And the idea of just wandering off to a café with a notebook and
writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss."
You, too, will be in the pink at Saint-Sulpice Square.
Enjoy whatever is behind the next door.