Saint Jean de Montmartre – A masterpiece of Art Nouveau


Detail facade and porch

Saint Jean de Montmartre overlooks the Place des Abbesses in the 18th district.

a perfect illustration of metal architecture and Art Nouveau.

Anatole de Baudot was a student of Viollet-le-Duc, the architect in charge of the restoration of Notre-Dame Cathedral, Saint-Denis Basilica and Sainte-Chapelle.

He studied also with Labrousse, himself a student of Baltard, the architect who designed Les Halles.

Like his renowned mentors, Baudot had a passion for metal architecture, and also found inspiration in oriental architecture, which he discovered during the Universal Exhibition of 1900.

Saint Jean de Montmartre was built between 1897 and 1904, and is the only Parisian church in reinforced cement mounted on a metal frame.

The most famous example of this experimental architectural style, so popular in the 1900s, is the former railway station Gare d’Orléans, which today houses the Orsay Museum.

Metal architecture was not to everyone’s taste in the early 20th century, and Saint Jean de Montmartre was threatened of demolition due to “unorthodox construction methods”.


Visible metal frame and gallery

Fortunately the opponents to his project lost the case, and the work resumed.

Saint Jean de Montmartre was completed in 1904 and became a parish church four years later.

It is true that Baudot met a couple of major structural issues, such as the smallness of the plot and the fact that the crypt was located 10m below street level.

He solved these issues by building 26 reinforcement pillars to anchor the building 12m deep into the ground, and used reinforced cement and brick to strengthen the building’s structure.

He added an interior metal gallery running all around the edifice to prevent any movement of the structure.

Saint Jean de Montmartre can be quite deceptive from a distance, but as you come closer you discover a wealth of elaborate architectural and decorative features produced by renowned artists of the time!


White marble angel statue by the entrance

The church’s distinctive red brick facade is adorned with geometrical mosaics, and the porch framed with two bronze angels.

Two other angels in white marble, sculpted by Guéniot, hold the fonts located by the entrance, inside the church.

You discover more low reliefs and medallions from this artist as you walk through the church.

The silversmith Goudji created the baptismal font using stone, bronze, silver and jasper.

The interior of Saint Jean de Montmartre is a perfect illustration of metal architecture at its best, a light yet strong structure adorned with geometrical, but intertwined volutes and friezes.

The theme of the decoration is based on the writings of St-John – The 4th Gospel and the Apocalypse.

The reinforced cement walls are covered with plaster to allow for the decoration, and impressive murals and canvasses adorn the nave and the chancel.


Murals depicting the Way of the Cross

The elegant pillars are adorned with patterns of vine leaves and branches that evoke the phrase from St-John’s Gospel “I am the vine you are the branches”.

The Chapelle de la Vierge was decorated after WWI with a mural depicting the marriage of a Soldier of the Great War.

Baudot designed the unusual altar.

The reinforced cement base is adorned with blue and grey lozenges produced in the workshop of the ceramist Alexandre Bigot.

Four medallions depicting the symbols of the Evangelists adorn the upper part of the altar.

You will find Matthew and the Angel, Luke and the Bull, Mark and the Lion and John and the Eagle – a latter theme also found on the pillars’ decoration among the vines leaves and branches.


Baudot’s altar

Saint Jean de Montmartre boasts stunning original Art Nouveau stained-glass windows.

Their decoration is once more based on the theme of St. John’s Gospel and the Apocalypse, and their rich colours shed a warm light into the church.

Forty-eight curvilinear windows, depicting the Virgin’s Litanies, are placed all around the church.

All stained glass – but the Crucifixion by Tournel – were produced in the workshops of Jac Galland.

The renowned organ maker Cavaillé-Coll built the great organ in 1852, but for another church located in Lyon!

The instrument was transferred to Saint Jean de Montmartre in 1910, and enlarged in the 1920s and the 1930s.


curvilinear windows

It was renovated a first time in 1979 and a second time ten years later.

The crypt contains some interesting paintings, but is not open to the public.

Saint Jean de Montmartre will delight the fans of Art Nouveau, and as you leave you’ll discover a bust of the architect Baudot outside the porch, to the right.

More photos of Saint Jean de Montmartre

  • Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre-Church-interior-metal-structure
  • Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre-Church-organ
  • Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre-Church-small-altar
  • Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre-stained-glass-by-Galland
  • Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre-stained-glass-Crucifixion-by-Tournel
  • Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre-stained-glass-window-
  • Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre-Church-facade
  • Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre-Church-porch
  • Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre-Church-Bust-of-architect-Baudot
  • Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre-Church-memorial-plaque-WWI-soldiers

Directions: 18th District19 rue des Abbesses
Metro station: Abbesses on Line 12

Coordinates and map Saint Jean de Montmartre: Lat 48.884365 – Long 2.338225