Church of the Val-de-Grâce

Coordinates: 48°50′27″N 02°20′31″E / 48.84083°N 2.34194°E / 48.84083; 2.34194

02 Val-de-Grâce.jpg
La gloire des Bienheureux, fresco of the cupola by Pierre Mignard.

This article describes the church of the Val-de-Grâce. For the surrounding hospital and former abbey, see Val-de-Grâce.

The Church of the Val-de-Grâce is the church of a former royal abbey in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, in what is now the Val-de-Grâce Hospital. The dome of the church is a principal landmark of the skyline of Paris. The church was initially designed by François Mansart, succeeded by Jacques Lemercier, who designed the dome.



The church was founded by Anne of Austria, Queen Consort of Louis XIII in 1621. Anne, a devout Roman Catholic and counter-reformationist, had visited a priory in the deep valley of the Bièvre river and had become a friend of the prioress, Marguerite de Veny d'Arbouse. Anne suggested that an abbey be established with a suitable church. Construction began in 1634 on land given by the crown, the former Hôtel du Petit-Bourbon. Construction proceeded slowly, particularly after Anne fell from favor with the King. The estranged Anne spent time at the abbey, watched by Cardinal Richelieu and participating in intrigues with others who were out of favor. Louis finally forbade Anne to visit the abbey, but soon after, Anne became pregnant with Louis' heir, the Dauphin Louis Dieudonné.

After the death of her husband, Anne became Queen-Regent to her four-year-old son, now Louis XIV. In gratitude for her son, Anne pressed forward with the construction of an entirely rebuilt church and monastery, "to spare no expense and to leave an eternal mark of her piety." In 1645 Anne engaged François Mansart as the project's architect, but Mansart departed after only a year after disagreement over the scope and cost of the project. The church was finally finished in 1667, after the successive participation of Mansart, Jacques Lemercier, Pierre Le Muet and Gabriel Leduc.

During the French Revolution the royal symbols were effaced. The abbey, still a model of religious construction of the 17th century, was disestablished during the French Revolution and became a military hospital in 1796 at the order of the National Convention. In 1979 the hospital was moved to a new facility, built on the former kitchen garden of the Benedictines. Today, the abbey contains the museum and library of the of the Army Health Service, the school of the Val-de-Grâce, and hospital staff offices.

When the abbey was disestablished in 1790 the furniture was removed along with the organ. The church itself was preserved as an architectural monument, and was spared the fate of several nearby convents, such as those of the Ursulines and the Feuillantines. The baldachino was preserved, but the high altar was moved to the care of the Petis-Augustins, and the small figures of the baldachino's nativity crèche were installed at the Église Saint-Roch. The high altar was rebuilt at the order of Napoleon III by Victor Ruprich-Robert. The priest at Saint-Roch declined to return the original Anguier crèche, so a duplicate was created, using three sculptors. Clement Denis sculpted the infant Jesus, Justin-Marie the Virgin, and Joseph was sculpted by Louis Desprez.

Description of the church

The plan of the church is a Latin cross crowned by a dome. Mansart's plan envisioned towers flanking the nave and an elevated entrance, giving the impression of a castle rather than the façade of a traditional church.

The two-story facade, with its double stages of twin columns supporting a pediment and flanking consoles, recalls church elevations from the first part of the 17th century, such as the Église des Feuillants, also designed by Mansart in 1623-24. More clear and sober than the Mannerists, Mansart's facade squares his façade with linked vertical lines using the columns and entablatures. The dome, with baroque accents, contains an inner dome decorated by Pierre Mignard: "La Gloire des Bonheureux" (1663) and a baldachino inspired by that at Saint Peter's Basilica.

The dome from the summit of the Tour Montparnasse

To give thanks for the birth of her son, Anne of Austria dedicated the church in honor of the Virgin Mary. The dedication on the porch pediment reads "IESU NASCENTI VIRGINIQ (EU) MATRI."

A copy of the Val de Grâce baldachino exists at the Church of Saint-François de Sales in Neuville, Quebec.


Nothing is known of the Val-de-Grâce pipe organ before the French Revolution, when it was dismantled and dispersed, apart from the name of its builder, Germain Pilon, who also built the organ at St. Louis des Invalides. The Val-de-Grâce had no organ until the late 19th century, when an Aristide Cavaillé-Coll organ which had been installed in 1853 in the church of Sainte Genevieve became available with the church's transformation into the Panthéon. The organ was moved to the Val-de-Grâce in 1891. The organ was lightly renovated and expanded in 1927 by Paul-Marie Koenig. The organ was restored in 1992-93, removing Koenig's additions, and the "petit grande-orgue" of Cavaillé-Coll is one of the few organs in the Paris region that has not been changed to suit the taste of the times.

See also

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Val-de-Grâce — The Val de Grâce ( Hôpital d instruction des armées du Val de Grâce or HIA Val de Grâce) is a military hospital located in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, France .The church of the Val de Grâce (coord|48|50|26|N|2|20|31|E) was built by order of… …   Wikipedia

  • The Blessed Virgin Mary —     The Blessed Virgin Mary     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► The Blessed Virgin Mary     The Blessed Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, the mother of God.     In general, the theology and history of Mary the Mother of God follow the… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • The Benedictine Order —     The Benedictine Order     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► The Benedictine Order     The Benedictine Order comprises monks living under the Rule of St. Benedict, and commonly known as black monks . The order will be considered in this article under… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • The Dark Knight : Le Chevalier noir — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Dark Knight et Chevalier Noir. The Dark Knight Le Chevalier noir …   Wikipédia en Français

  • The Pendragons — Jonathan and Charlotte Pendragon were an award winning husband and wife team of American illusionists who called their work physical grand illusion . They are widely known thanks to numerous national and international television appearances.… …   Wikipedia

  • Shrines to the Virgin Mary — In the culture and practice of some Christian Churches mainly, but not solely, the Roman Catholic Church a Shrine to the Virgin Mary (or Marian shrine) is a shrine marking an apparition or other miracle ascribed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or a… …   Wikipedia

  • England (Before the Reformation) —     England (Before the Reformation)     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► England (Before the Reformation)     This term England is here restricted to one constituent, the largest and most populous, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Howard, Mary, of the Holy Cross — • Poor Clare, born 28 December, 1653; died at Rouen, 21 Mary s 1735 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Howard, Mary, of the Holy Cross     Mary Howard, of the Holy Cross …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country — Theatrical release poster by John Alvin Directed by Nicholas Meyer …   Wikipedia

  • Mary Howard, of the Holy Cross — (born 28 December 1653; died at Rouen, 21 March 1735) was an English nun of the Poor Clares. Life She was a daughter of Sir Robert Howard, a younger son of Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Berkshire, in whose home Mary s early youth was spent. At the… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.