Your Eminence, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Mr. Mayor of Paris, dear Bertrand Delanoë, Mr. Mayor of the 6th district, dear Jean-Pierre Lecoq, Mr. Curé de Saint-Sulpice, Father Jean-Loup Lacroix, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
When we went out, a few moments ago, from the nave to the forecourt to the sound of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll’s great organ, it was difficult for me not to be moved by the weight of long history, by the brotherhood of the communities gathered here, by the strength of the monument, by the collision of its aesthetic codes. The great churches have in fact this unique ability to condense for the visitor the expressive intensity of the moments of history. Indeed, how much has been accomplished since Anne of Austria laid the foundation stone for a monument that would replace the small parish church of Bourg Saint-Germain, which had become too narrow for an expanding suburb. Before us stands the result of a centuries-old construction site, interrupted several times by political crises starting with the Fronde, wars and lack of money. The architect Jean-Nicolas Servandoni and his successors have made it one of the most Italian churches in the capital, a church whose portico and loggia also evoke St.Paul’s Cathedral in London. Today, it is one of the most active parishes in the capital: the many associations of formation and support that you welcome, Mr Parish Priest, have the chance to federate their action around a place where Pigalle, Bouchardon and Delacroix have left their mark.
This is the end of a very important building site that we celebrate today, whose scaffolding installed since 1999 made more than visible the existence to visitors and Parisians. Dear Bertrand Delanoë, I am particularly proud to have the opportunity to be with you today to return to Paris and France their church, which is also one of the capital’s major monuments. To carry out this project, the State has made an exceptional effort to provide funding on a par with the City of Paris, as it has also done for the Tour Saint-Jacques. If it was finally achieved, it was also thanks to the exemplary collaboration of the City of Paris and the State departments, and I would like to commend the remarkable commitment of the General Inspection of Historic Monuments.
To inaugurate a tower is to remember the imposing symbol of the belfry that marked our history. I also think of these vedute of modern times, when the big cities of Europe recognized themselves by the specific composition of their multiple bell towers. This one, recognizable among all by its size and its characteristic style, knew like so many others the melting of the bells during the revolution, but also the telegraph of Claude Chappe, or the shells of the Prussian siege of 1871. Long before the recent success of an American film that now brings here thousands of visitors in search of mysteries, Saint-Sulpice is for me the memory of Huysmans.
In Over there, it is the two friends Durtal and Hermies who visit the ringer Louis Carhaix, the ultimate representative of a looming profession in the face of the assaults of technology and modernity. At the beginning of the novel, they noticed a sign on the front of the church: «You can visit the towers». 120 years later, we are here to respond to the invitation of the great novelist.
Today I would like to pay tribute to the magnificent work done by all the trades that have made such a project possible. Alongside the architects and engineers, it is the crane operators and stonemasons, whose know-how is part of the noble history of the builders, who have taken up the challenge of the metal frames, disassembled and reassembled the columns, revised the wooden structures, replaced the diseased stones, respecting the aesthetic cohesion of Saint-Sulpice. It was also a matter of correcting previous restorations that had proved, throughout the previous century, to be inappropriate in terms of materials, concrete and stone not always being a good match. I will also mention the restoration of the bench and pulpit of the church, a masterpiece of cabinetmaking from the end of the 18th century, the implementation of which, funded by my Ministry, was also completed last year. I am particularly proud today to salute the remarkable work of all those who are well deserving of being recognized as the magnificent surgeons of Saint-Sulpice.
Today, Thérèse, Louise, Marie, Henriette and Caroline, the five restored bells surrounded by the four evangelists, will ring again. They are now back in this «soundscape» which Alain Corbin has so finely shown the importance in our history of the sensitive. The ringing of the bell, which has so long punctuated urban life as the rural life of our nation and of Europe, has always accompanied all emotions, all moments of joy, both Christian and secular. It is still today, to our delight, the sound trail of a shared heritage.