Lying in the shadows of the iconic and ever more famous Paris Panthéon, many of the other churches in the 5e arrondissement are often overlooked in favour of their acclaimed counterpart. But wander around the Latin Quarter for any given amount of time, and you’re sure to stumble upon at least one or two interesting and quirky examples of architecture around the district, including that of Église Saint-Éphrem-le-Syriaque, a church that hosts many classical concerts and is the third chapel to have been built on site.
Rue des Carmes: A Brief History
The Saint Ephrem Church is situated at number 17, Rue des Carmes, and the area is best known for being part of the Sorbonne neighbourhood. Nearby attractions include Shakespeare and Co., The Abbey Bookshop, and College des Bernardins. The road itself offers breathtaking views of Notre Dame, as well as up towards the Paris Panthéon, final resting place of Voltaire and Marie Curie.
When it was established in the 13th Century, Rue des Carmes was first called Rue du Clos-Bruneau. A nearby passageway still bears the name of the original road. In the 14th Century, the lane changed names once more when it was called ‘Rue Saint-Hilaire-du-Mont’ thanks to a small chapel in its proximity, which has since been demolished.
However, ever since 1864, the road has been called ‘Rue des Carmes’ as a result of brothers from the Order of Carmel settling here in the 14th-Century. Other places of note along the Parisian street include the store ‘Mayette Magie Moderne’ (thought to be the oldest store in the world which teaches magic), the Police Prefecture Museum, and the Presles College, a now secular chapel.
Charles Marville, Rue des Carmes, 1869. Look at the bottom of the road and you can spot the Notre Dame Cathedral‘s iconic spires looming up above the Parisian rooftops.
Eglise Saint-Ephrem-le-Syriaque: A Forgotten Gem of the 5e Arrondissement
There has been a chapel onsite since the 14th-century, and in total, there have been three. Although the church you see today was only constructed during the 18th-Century, it was built on the foundations of the much older places of worship. Today, the church is dedicated to Saint Ephrem-the Syrian, a theologian and Syrian Deacon who lived in the 4th Century. Saint Ephrem is best known for his large array of hymns, poems and sermons and is often cited as being an important church father in the Syriac-speaking tradition.
The church you now see was completed in 1733, though it was only attributed to the Syriac Catholic Mission in 1925 after it was purchased by the City of Paris. Prior to this, the church was part of the College of the Irish and before this, the chapel had been part of the ‘College of Lombards’. During the French Revolution, the church was used as a barrel store and to house prisoners.
Visit Église Saint-Éphrem-le-Syriaque
The Syrian Catholic Church holds music events on a regular basis and is said to have some of the best acoustics of any building in Paris. As a result, regular Classical Concerts are held within the chapel and are a feast of sound for the ears. Concerts are often free and a timetable of events can be found here. Other opening times of the church are Monday to Saturday: 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, and then there is a service held every Sunday at 11:00 am.