Last Updated on 3rd January 2021 by Sophie Nadeau
If you’ve ever been to Paris, then no doubt you’ll be familiar with the sumptuous interior of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, stained glass of Sainte Chapelle, and, of course, the flying buttresses of Notre Dame Cathedral. These are all Roman Catholic churches but there are also several Protestant churches dotted across the French capital. One of these is the Temple protestant de l’Oratoire du Louvre! Here’s how to visit, as well as a brief history.
Situated a stone’s throw away from the Louvre, along the ever-so-iconic rue de Rivoli (which since 2020 has been reserved only for taxis, public transport, and bicycles and is closed to private cars), the Oratory Church of the Louvre can be found between rue de Rivoli and rue Saint Honoré. Please note that, in French, the church is known as Église réformée de l’Oratoire du Louvre.
A brief history of the Temple Protestant de l’Oratoire du Louvre
Constructed atop of ancient walls from Philippe Auguste (some of the vestiges of which can be seen in the Latin Quarter today), the beginnings of the church were rather humble. You see, in 1616, a man by the name of Father Pierre Bérulle purchased a townhouse in the centre of Paris and constructed a small chapel on site.
Soon enough, the chapel had attracted enough worshippers that the space had become too small. A larger church space was commissioned and the ensuing ecclesiastical building was thus designed by Clément Métezeau and Jacques Lemercier in the 17th-century. Among other accolades, Lemercier is credited as being one of the foremost architects in the sumptuous Palais-Royal.
Rather interestingly, when the church was founded, it was incorporated into the French branch of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, which is actually a Catholic branch of Christianity. In 1623, the church was appointed to be the Royal Chapel of the nearby Louvre Palace (what is now the iconic Louvre Museum started out in life as a royal residence), even though construction of the church had not yet been completed.
So important was the ecclesiastical building, that it was the place where both the funerals of Cardinal Richelieu (the very same man as in the Three Musketeers) and Louis XIII took place. Though the chapel was used to hold services, work on the building was halted in 1625 and did not resume until 1740, with the works only being completed in 1745.
During the French Revolution, the church was suppressed, meaning that it was closed for worship, with its interior stripped of anything valuable and looted. Napoleon gifted the church to the Protestant congregation of Saint-Louis-du-Louvre in 1811 and it has been used as a Protestant church ever since.
How to Visit the Temple Protestant de l’Oratoire du Louvre
Though there are plenty of other churches in Paris which are more visually appealing, the protestant church along rue de Rivoli remains well worth a visit thanks to the simple fact that it’s one of the few Christian Protestant places of worship in a city which seems as if it has a Catholic Christian church on almost every corner.
The church is seldom open to the public and one of the only times you’ll be able to visit freely for yourself is by heading to the ecclesiastical building during European Heritage Days (which is typically during a weekend mid-September in Paris).
The only other times that the church are open is for a weekly church service on a Sunday, as well as during various times for classical music concerts. Though the church is free to visit for services and on European Heritage Days, the price of classical music concerts held at the church varies.