Saint-Eustache is a real architectural gem. Built between 1532 and 1632, it is a Gothic structure clothed in remarkable Renaissance detail that reflects the transitory time of its origin. It was popular among historical celebrities for baptisms (Richelieu, Madame de Pompadour), weddings (Molière), First Communions (Louis XIV) and burials.
Apart from its extraordinary architecture, St-Eustache can boast excellent paintings (for instance by Rubens) and beautiful stained glass. Also the church has what is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, so many concerts and recitals take place there. A Keith Haring sculpture made of silver stands in one of the chapels in memory of the epidemic of AIDS deaths during the 1980s. The square on the south side is a popular place to rest for a while. You can relax on a bench and admire Henri Miller’s sculpture L’Ecoute (The Listener). Or you can go shopping in an underground modern shopping precinct, the Forum des Halles, which replaced the demolished wholesale marketplace in the 1970s.
Though the area of Les Halles, a fresh produce market, has had a parish since the 13th century, the Saint-Eustache church was built between 1532 and 1637. During the French Revolution it was secularised, but it was later restored and remains in use today.
Situated in Les Halles, an area of Paris once renowned for fresh produce of all kinds, the area became a parish in 1223, due to a man named Alais, who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being completed until 1637. The name ‘Saint-Eustache’ refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general who was burnt along with his family for converting to Christianity.
During the French Revolution, the church was desecrated, looted and used for a time as a barn. It was restored after the Revolution, however, and remains in use today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s ‘Te Deum’ and Liszt’s ‘Christus’ that took place there in 1886.
The church, attributed to Domenico da Cortona, is relatively short (105m), but makes up for it in height (33.45m). The nave has five bays and there are 24 chapels. The right tower is quite simple, while the left bears the mark of Renaissance. It is symbolic, in a way, because the building as a whole integrates Gothic forms and Renaissance details.