Sep 20, 2019 in History

Saint-Étienne-du-Mont and Notre-Dame du Travail


This research paper provides description of two churches: Saint-Étienne-du-Mont and Notre-Dame du Travail. These buildings represent the architecture in Paris in 17th and 20th century. They contain rather extinguish features of architecture of these centuries which were not saved in other buildings. Thorough description of historical and social background of their construction will be provided below. Also, much attention will be paid to appearance of these churches (their interior and exterior). Saint-Étienne-du-Mont and Notre-Dame du Travail will be compared for showing their similarities and differences. Their considerable value for current and future generations will be outlined in the final part of the paper.


Background of Research

This research paper is based on the information taken from books and peer reviewed articles as it is considered to be grounded resources. Ayers in his book The Architecture of Paris provides thorough description of Notre-Dame du Travail. He describes not only interior and exterior of the church. Much attention is paid to the behavior of that century. Mroue in his book Memorable Walks in Paris described the background and the construction of the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church. Stayer in his work Suffering Saints showed the significance of this church from the religious vision. While Branston in Paris in the Middle Ages paid more attention to description of interior and exterior of the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church

Significance of Research

Description of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church

The construction of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church was started in 1492 and finished only in 1626. The building of this church was initiated by the abbey if Sainte – Genevieve for replacement an old church that could not place the growing population. It is notable that the relicts of the patron saint of the capital of France (Sainte Genevieve) are kept in this church in the current time. Also, the epitaphs of Jean Racine and Blaise Pascal can be found near the shrine of the Sainte Geneve in the right part of the church. Unfortunately, battles held during the French Revolution caused considerable damages to Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church. It was reconstructed only in the 19th century.

The hall of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church is about sixty nine meters long and twenty five meters wide. It has very high aisles and inward tansept. Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church has outstanding shifts of slanting to the left side. The plan of the church is made in Gothic style. Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church inside decorations include round arches in the nave part of the church; pointed arches in the choir part. These arches are widely glorified by ornaments in Renaissance style.

This building is notable as the architects combined building features of several centuries. It depicts the transformation of late Gothic architecture style into Renaissance (including dome Baroque features, like facade). The façade of the church represents 3 superimposed pediments (in form inherent to Renaissance architecture). They are flanked by the soaring belfry. It has two staircases in the form of spiral. The top contains a high pinnacle made in late Gothic style. The façade was reconstructed in the 19th century as it was considerably damaged during French Revolutions. The high bell tower stands on the top of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church.

The elegancy of the interior of the church is also emphasized by choir screen performed in Renaissance style, as it was built during the final part of construction of the church (from 1610 till 1622). However, the structure of the choir screen is made in late Gothic style. It is one more representation of successful combination of two architecture styles in Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church. Its railings are decorated by stone lace of twinning form. The figure of Christ was decorated by Ulrich von Grienewald.

The nave and the chancel of this church are separated by a rood screen, also called jube. The common people are divided from ecclesiastics by this separation. This screen represents a non-closed ornate partition of tracery made of stone. It is one of the extinguish characteristics of architecture of the Middle Ages. It is notable that this screen is the only one that left in the capital of France after destructive French Revolutions.

The apse of the church has extinguish characteristics of Classical architecture style which was popular in France in 17th century. It is flanking and it contains a 3-sided cloister. Construction of the apse was finished only in 1609. Also visitors can find a some kin fog town house located outside the apse.

Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church has the oldest organ in Paris. It was made almost four hundred years ago (in 1631) by Jehan Buron and is still in working condition. The organ contains more than seven thousand pipes of different length (from three to five meters high).Also, considerable attention should be paid to baroque pulpit. It was made in 1651 and decorated by LaHire and Lestocard. Decorations show the mythical figure of Samson surrounded by 7 women.

Description of church Notre-Dame du Travail

The next architectural construction that will be described in this research paper is Notre-Dame du Travail. This church was built more than one hundred years ago (in 1902) by the architecture Jules Astruc. He chose to use iron as the main element of construction of Notre-Dame du Travail, as use of this material made construction cheap and in the same time a low amount of this material can cover considerable areas. Andres Ayers in his book The Architecture of Paris supposed that the unusual combination of materials in construction of this church had a “highly ideological motive…the vicar of the parish wanted a building that would provide an ambience familiar to his congregation, and the church’s factory aesthetic was thus presumably an attempt to fulfil this request, born out by its dedication to workers everywhere”.

The church represents a combination of modern and traditional styles. The sharp architecture is enlightened by roof made form glass. This roof makes the construction softer and more attracting. Combination of stone, iron, bricks and wood in this church is very harmonious. The side walls, buttresses and walls of the presbytery are old hard stones which come largely from demolition slaughterhouse.

The extinguish feature of this church is an industrial atmosphere. It expresses the spirit of the 20th century: technological revolution, scientific researches and industrial developments. Even the aim of construction reflects this spirit. Notre-Dame du Travail was built for enlightening and religious guidance of workers who were engaged in construction of numerous buildings for the World Exhibition in 1889 (including famous the Eiffel Tower). Even the frame of this church is made from parts demolished constructions from this exhibition.

This monument is a reflection of so called social Catholicism in architecture of the capital of France. It undermines religion that is close to common people (mostly to poor workers). The design of Notre-Dame du Travail has a form of factory on order to make working class feel comfortable (not to impress them by tremendous decorations) in common environment. The severe lines and lack of paintings and sculptures do not divert people’s attention form praying and communication with the God and religious representatives. Even the paintings on wall show plots of common working life. For example painting of Saint Eloi reflects goldsmith and metallurgy. Among other notable figures whose vizualizations are presented in this church are Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Fiacre, and Saint Luke. Robert Hall in his painting depicts complicated financing of construction of Notre-Dame du Travail. Local authorities and common people joined their efforts to collect enough sum of money for building this church for poor people. Even the monuments in the church deliver the atmosphere of honorable attitude to the working class. In the back of the apse visitors can notice angels which great the workers. The one can notice a composition representing the daily activities of shopkeepers and industrialists.

In the same time chancel and porch are constructed in a traditional manner. The organ in the church is also made from combination of iron and stone. “Astruc’s design remains faithful to the basilical form of a traditional Gothic church, with a tall central nave that is lit by a clerestory and flanked by lower sideaisles”. The side chapels of aisles are topped off by a balcony that runs through the whole length of the church.

The nave of Notre-Dame du Travail represents a metal structure. It is made from steel and iron (one more characteristic of industrial architecture). More than 130 tonnes of iron were used for its construction. The church consists of 8 wells of 22 meters high each one. The facade and the walls of the church are made in a form of millstone. Window frames, rosettes, arches, frames of roof are also made form iron. Notre-Dame du Travail represents a palace of industry.

Comparison of Two Churches

This part of the paper will provide comparison of two churches described above. The comparison is considered to be relevant and valuable because the subjects of comparison represent two similar types of architecture. Saint-Étienne-du-Mont and Notre-Dame du Travail are both churches. Moreover these churches are located in the same city.

Existing difference of these churches are based on the fact that they were built during different time periods. The construction of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont finished in the 17th century when the construction of Notre-Dame du Travail finished in the 20th century. The purposes of building the church were different. Notre-Dame du Travail was constructed for representatives of the working class (lower and middle class). The architecture was simple and strict (similar to architecture of factories) to make people feel comfortable inside the church. The interior and exterior of this construction represents so called social Catholicism, i.e. Catholicism that is closer to common people. The architect used such materials as metal and bricks in order to place emphasis on simplicity of his construction. Notre-Dame du Travail is an example of architecture common to the beginning of the 20th century. It is reflected in lack of decoration and low amount of sculptures. Even existing one reflect subjects from common life of working class (as it was described above).

In the same time Saint-Étienne-du-Mont was created for inspiration of congregation and exaltation of their thoughts and ideas closer to the God (praise of the God and the Saints). This church contains numerous paintings and sculptures reflecting subjects from the Bible or mythical plots (for example, Samson). Every detail of the church, especially choir screen, is enthusiastically decorated and unique. It creates impression of cultural rise and prominence. This church was not only the place of praying. It was a place where people enrich their behavior by observation of works of art. Saint-Étienne-du-Mont was not created as a building where people can feel themselves comfortable and ordinary. This church was a place where people came for rising their soul, thoughts and hopes closer to the God. Saint-Étienne-du-Mont represents transformation of late Gothic architecture style to Renaissance style. The architects successfully combine both styles in order to create a tremendous building that reflects the spirit of those centuries (as construction lasted for several centuries).

Both churches have a considerable conservation value as they provide understanding of culture and human behavior of the 17th and 20th century. They not only depict historical (like industrial revolution) and cultural (like Renaissance, Gothic, Baroque, and social industrial styles in the architecture) events; and are used as Catholic churches in the current time. Notre-Dame du Travail and Saint-Étienne-du-Mont are cultural heritage of French nation and the whole world. This understanding is very significant for all representatives of modern society (both modernists and traditionalists; rich people and poor) as they should clearly recognize the great necessity of saving of these buildings and passing them to future generations as a part of our history, culture, and experience. Notwithstanding the necessity of wrecking of old buildings in the current times (due to great extent of urban development) we should save these architectures as they represent spiritual life of the whole humanity


Notre-Dame du Travail and Saint-Étienne-du-Mont churches represent the architecture in Paris in 20th and 17th centuries accordingly. Both buildings have extinguished feature of their periods. Notre-Dame du Travail made from steel and stone with a low amount of decorations and paintings show the industrial period in architecture; when Saint-Étienne-du-Mont reflects the late Gothic and Renaissance styles with a great variety of adornments. Both buildings reflect the spirit history and culture of times when they were built.


I have chosen Notre-Dame du Travail and Saint-Étienne-du-Mont for this research paper because these churches contain extinguish features of the architecture of epochs when they were built that did not survived in other churches till current times. Notre-Dame du Travail church (built in 20th century) represents an industrial style in architecture. Saint-Étienne-du-Mont (built in 17th century) represents late Gothic and Renaissance styles in architecture. Both churches have numerous differences and similarities described in this paper. Notre-Dame du Travail and Saint-Étienne-du-Mont depict the history and the culture of the whole nation.

The main argument of the paper is that architecture of the 17th century and architecture of the 20th century differs greatly. These differences are reflected in decorations, paintings (Saint-Étienne-du-Mont have numerous mythical plots, like description of Samson, when paintings in Notre-Dame du Travail depict the life of working class ), used materials (construction of Notre-Dame du Travail consists of such unusual material as metal) and the style of the whole buildings. The main aims of building of these churches were different. Notre-Dame du Travail was constructed in such a form to make working class feel comfortable inside it; when Saint-Étienne-du-Mont reflects the greatness of the God, Catholic Church and the art. However these two churches have one considerable similarity. Both Saint-Étienne-du-Mont and Notre-Dame du Travail reflect the spirit of the time when they were constructed, people’s intends, desires and necessities.


Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church was constructed in Paris in the beginning of the 17th century. The architecture of the church has outstanding features of late Gothic and Renaissance. They are reflected in stairs, facade, organ of the church.

Notre-Dame du Travail church was constructed in Paris in the beginning of the 20th century. It represents the industrial style in the architecture. This church is made from steel and bricks. It was built for working class.

This research paper provides thorough description and comparison of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church and Notre-Dame du Travail Church. It does not only depict the differences in the architecture of the 17th and 20th century; reflected in difference between late Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles and industrial architectural style; in differences of representation of religious buildings and intents either to make them more common to people or to catch their imagination. It outlines the significance of saving of these buildings as the reflection of cultural heritage for future generations.


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