On a flying visit to Paris I decided to take in a couple of places that I’ve never been. One of those places is a church in the 14th arrondissement. Paris is full of churches, of course, but this one is a bit different.
Ok, it doesn’t look very different. In fact, it looks pretty conventional. But wait till you see inside.
It’s not really a stone building at all. It’s steel frame construction with just an outer cladding of stone.
In the mid-19th century, the population of this Paris district grew rapidly, quickly outgrowing the existing church. These were working people, many working in construction, but also many poor Parisians. Taking advantage of the interest in Paris’ 1900 Universal Exhibition, the parish priest, Father Soulange-Bodin, started a subscription to raise funds for a new parish church and the church that was built, L’eglise Notre Dame du Travail, Our Lady of Labour, was consciously designed, by the architect Jules Astruc, to reflect the lives and livelihoods of so many of its parishioners.
Overtly industrial in its design, the nave is built over a steel and iron framework.
This, in a way, reminds me of Tower Bridge. It’s so deceptive. On the outside it’s all stone, traditional, old-fashioned even, but on the inside it’s all modern (for the time) materials and construction techniques. And the modernity of it, the engineering, isn’t covered up or disguised, but displayed and celebrated.
Some of this was reused metalwork, having previously been used in the construction of the Palais de L’Industrie, which had been built on the Champ de Mars in 1855 for an earlier Universal Exhibition .
Even the artworks inside the church reflect the world work work. Saint Luke, the Evangelist, venerated as a patron saint of artists, physicians, surgeons and butchers; Saint Eloi (Eligius), patron saint of metal-workers and those who work with horses; and Saint Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners.
The church can be found in the 14th arrondissement in the district of Plaisance (nearest metro: Pernety on L 13.