Val de Grace Paris is considered one of the most beautiful historical Baroque church building in the city…and it is also one of the few churches not to get get damaged during the French Revolution.
Anne of Austria, King Louis XIII’s wife, gave the commission to build the church.
The building was her votive, a gift of gratitude, to Virgin Mary, for the Queen giving birth to a son (the later King Louis XIV)…after 23 childless years of marriage.
After the death of her husband, Anne became a Queen-Regent to the then-four-year-old King Louis XIV, which made the commissioning possible.
PHOTO: Val-de-Grâce church is a design by architect François Mansart, excluding the massive dome, which was designed by Jacques Lemercier.
King Louis XIV himself, at the age of seven, laid the foundation stone to start work on the church, in 1645…with the church completed twenty-two years later, in 1667.
- curving lines,
- rich details, and
- harmony of different elements…
…have all elevated the structure to the position of one of the most appreciated Baroque buildings in Paris.
During the French Revolution, Benedictine nuns offered medical care to the wounded revolutionaries at the Val-de-Grace, which is why it wasn’t damaged, unlike most other churches in Paris at the time.
The building continued in this role even after the revolution, when it became a military hospital from 1796, and was used as such until 1979.
Today, the church buildings include facilities for…
- army health care library and museum,
- École du Val-de-Grâce, and
- public health care offices.
There is a statue on the inner courtyard of Val-de-Grace by David d’Angers, from 1843, portraying Dominique Jean Larrey.
Dominique Jean Larrey is especially well-known for being Napoleon’s personal doctor, from the military campaign in Egypt up to the Battle in Waterloo…
…but he is also considered a pioneering doctor in battlefield health care.
The church’s pediment on the main facade has a latin text that reads:
“IESU NASCENTI VIRGINIQ(UE) MATRI”
or, in English…
“(This Church Has Been Dedicated) to the Birth of Jesus and His Mother Virgin Mary”
The church museum and the Val-de-Grâce church are available forguided tours. Because the building is also in use by the French military, these tours are closely supervised.
Val de Grace Paris
Address: 1, Place Alphonse Laveran, 75005 Paris, France
Official website: ValDeGrace.org
Current timetables for performances are available from the official website, at www.valdegrace.org.