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Visiting Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris

There are so many churches in Paris, many of which are well worth a visit even if you’re not a parishioner, that it’s easy to overlook any churches that aren’t called Notre Dame. But thanks to the popular Dan Brown novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” at least one other Paris church is on many visitors’ must-see list – Saint-Sulpice.

Saint-Sulpice church, or Église Saint-Sulpice as it’s called in French, is actually the second-largest church in all of Paris (just behind the famous Notre Dame). It’s located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris in the Luxembourg Quarter, and it dates from the mid-17th century. Art lovers will note that one of Eugene Delacroix’s last works is in Saint-Sulpice, near the main entrance. Architecture students may wonder why the church’s two towers are different heights, and why one of them isn’t even finished. But the two most popular reasons to visit St. Sulpice are to see the church’s incredible pipe organ and to visit one of the settings for “The Da Vinci Code.”

Most Da Vinci Code tours in Paris include the Saint-Sulpice church in their itineraries, so if you join one you’ll get to stop at the church with a guide. If you’re a Dan Brown fan who’s doing a DIY tour, you’re still welcome to check out St. Sulpice – there are just a few things the church would like you to know. Despite what Brown wrote, there is no hollow space under the line on the floor of the church (which also, contrary to what’s in the book, doesn’t mark the site of a former pagan temple), so please don’t go hammering on the floor trying to find it for yourself.

The famous line on the floor of Saint-Sulpice, which Brown said was part of the Paris Meridian (or “Rose Line” in the novel), was actually laid into the floor in 1727 by a clock maker and astronomer in an effort to “fix the date of Easter.” The line leads to the church’s gnomon, which is the upright part of a sundial – this gnomon is the obelisk Brown refers to in his novel. In the years after the book’s publication, so many people were found poking around and tapping the floor around the obelisk in the hunt for the hollow space that Brown created for his book that the church finally put up a sign to help people separate fact from fiction.

St. Sulpice’s other famous draw is its stunning pipe organ. Noted as one of the finest in the world, the organ has 6,500 pipes, 102 stops, and five layered keyboards. It was installed in the church in 1862, replacing the previous organ which had been built in 1781. The whole thing is more than 20 meters tall, and even people who aren’t into organ music are impressed with the overall size and stature of the Saint-Sulpice organ. And for those of you who are interested in organ music, you can time your visit to the church in order to hear one of the weekly free organ concerts that are given each Sunday after the 10:00am mass lets out.

Location: Place Saint-Sulpice, 2, rue Palatine, 75006 PARIS
How to Get There: Metro stop Saint-Sulpice; buses 58, 63, 70, 86, 87, 89, and 95 stop near the church
Admission: Free
Hours: Daily, 7:30am-7:30pm
Services: Monday-Friday, 7:00am (2, rue Garancière), 9:00am, 12:05pm, and 6:45pm; Saturday, 7:00am (2, rue Garancière), 9:00am, 12:05pm, 6:45pm (Rosaire crypt, rue Palatine entrance); Sunday, 7:00am (2, rue Garancière), 9:00am (Vierge chapel), 10:30am, 12:05pm, 6:45pm
More Information: The church’s website is here, in French; and if you speak French, the church even links to a fact vs. fiction page about “The Da Vinci Code.” For more about the church’s organ, see this page.

thanks to the history on the Wikipedia page for some background

original photo locations, from top to bottom: Omar Omar, Andy Hay, and darek rusin