Most first-timers in Paris will miss out on a visit to the 15th arrondissement in favour of districts where there are plenty of big monuments and even more things to see. However, the residential fifteenth still has plenty of secrets to uncover, most notably the wooden Eglise Saint-Seraphin-de-Sarov, which is tucked away in a forgotten courtyard and is even harder to find…
Address | Eglise Orthodoxe Saint-Séraphin-de-Sarov, 91 rue Lecourbe, Paris 15
Easily the best-kept secret of the 15th, Saint Seraphin de Sarov Church is unique in that it’s a wooden structure with a blue dome… and it’s hidden away behind a Haussmannian door in an otherwise unsuspecting courtyard.
So hidden is the teeny tiny ecclesiastical building, that I actually missed the entranceway the first time I wandered down the street in search of it! In fact, it was only after heading inside a nearby perfume store and politely asking the woman who worked there how to reach the church that I had the correct instructions!
A history of Eglise Saint-Seraphin-de-Sarov
Wooden exterior and beautifully ornate interior, the first church on-site was actually not constructed until the 1930s and was consecrated in 1933. Funded by many small donations from local residents of the 15th arrondissement, the Russian Orthodox chapel features a pretty interesting interior!
After all, within the heart of the church, there are two maples, one of which is still alive and growing. Otherwise, the interior features the kind of ornate gold gilt iconography that is so synonymous with Russian Orthodox churches. Some of the works of art within the church are by Jeanne Reitlinger et de Mère Marie Skobtsov.
The church you see today was actually erected in 1974 on the site of the previous 1930s wooden structure. The church is important to those who fled to Paris during the Russian Revolution on account of their loyalty to Tsar Nicholas II. Ever-so-unique for this part of Paris, I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in the area!
How to visit Saint Seraphin de Sarov Church
Head to rue Lecourbre, one of the most historic and ancient streets to strike its way through the 15th arrondissement and you’ll soon discover a myriad of residential buildings interspersed with small boutiques, independent eateries, and some of the quaintest florists in the entirety of Paris.
All there is to see at 91 is a blue wooden door that’s typically Haussmannian and simply has a sign saying ‘EGLISE ORTHODOXE RUSSE DE SAINT SÉRAPHIN DE SAROV AU FOND DE LA 2EME COUR’ (the church is at the end of the second courtyard).
Press the button at the bottom of the keypad to the right-hand side of the doorframe and you’ll hear the buzzer sound. Push open the door and you’ll be greeted by a quaint cobblestone courtyard filled with plants and some pretty two-storey houses.
Carry on to the second courtyard and you’ll soon spy the blue dome that towers above the rest of the courtyard buildings. The wooden chapel itself is to the left-hand side of a grand mansion house and is behind some green high railed gates. All around, there are floral borders and well-kept trailing vines.
Unfortunately, these were locked during my visit, though the church can still be admired, admittedly from a few steps away! For those who wish to see inside the church, the ecclesiastical building is actually only open for a few select days throughout the year;
Eglise Saint-Seraphin-de-Sarov is open during the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine (European heritage days) as well as during la Fête des Jardins. Weekly services are held Saturday: vigils at 6 PM and on Sunday: divine liturgy at 10 AM.
Update: I visited the church in early 2021 and was lucky enough to be allowed inside to explore. Highlights of the interior of the church of Saint-Serpahin de Sarov include a tree growing through the centre of the church and plenty of beautiful paintings, including the ornate altar.
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