Paris isn’t all stereotypes. And it’s not all Haussmannian architecture and cute cafés either. Instead, it’s a whole mash-up of centuries worth of history and people; an open-air museum if you like. From the outside, Notre Dame du Travail looks like any other ‘eglise’ in Paris. All sandstone façade and traditional architecture…
But step inside, and you’ll be treated to a style of architecture you’ve likely never seen before in Paris, let alone in any church. All iron frames and severe ceilings come together to form one of the quirkiest places of worship in the city of lights. Located in the 14e arrondissement of the city, not far from the beautiful and futuristic architecture of Jardin des Colonnes, you’ll find Notre Dame du Travail (‘Our Lady of Work’).
Although I stumbled upon the nearby gardens quite by accident, I’d actually first read about the quirky ecclesiastical building in Nairn’s Paris, a guidebook to the city of lights written over 50 years ago. Although the church is a little off the beaten tourist track (aren’t all the most interesting places?), after one quick google search, I was a little more than intrigued to learn more about this fascinating church and its history.
Notre Dame du Travail: Metallic Architecture in the heart of the 14e
Notre Dame du Travail is quirky, ecclectic and a unique blend of contemporary meets ancient. Located near Place de Catalogne, the church’s nearest metro station is Pernety (line 13). Constructed in 1902, it was built during the time of the Universal Exhibition of Paris on the Champ de Mars when many of the workers building the Exhibition’s attractions lived in the 14e arrondissement of the city.
As a result of an ever growing population, the previous church on an adjacent site, Notre Dame de Plaisance had grown way too small. As a result, Notre Dame du Travail was built for the Paris Universal Exhibition workers and their families between 1899 and 1901. (Obviously this demolition was in a time long before the preservation of historic monuments!).
Rather interestingly, much of the iron used in the church’s interior comes from the Palais de L’Industrie (which was built for a previous Universal Exhibition in 1855 and is where the Grand Palais and Petit Palais now sit). The church’s main clock was taken as a war trophy by Napoleon III following the Battle of Sebastopol in 1854. It was gifted to the inhabitants of Notre Dame du Plaisance and transferred into Notre Dame du Travail upon the church’s completion in the early 1900s.
But, of course, the most intriguing part of this church is undoubtedly the juxtaposition of the Romanesque façade and mettalic interior. Architect Jules Astruc has really balanced the ancient meets modern well and I definitely recommend a trip to the church if you’re ever in the area…