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NOTRE- DAME DE LORETTE: Church of Kept Women

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A contest was held, and the design of the church was awarded to architect, Hippolyte Lebas, who began construction in 1823, and completed it in 1836.

This burgeoning new neighborhood was being populated by a new class of bourgeoisie, and beautiful edifices were being erected in harmony with a neo-classical style. The neighborhood is called Nouvelle Athenes. The church, consecrated by the Archbishop of Paris, was named Notre -Dame de Lorette, after a church in the Italian city of Loreto, which was supposed to have contained some bits of the house in which The Virgin Mary was raised.

Artists of every genre found this part of Paris very desirable. Franz Lizst lived at 23, rue Laffitte, in the Hotel de France, where he introduced the composer Frederic Chopin to the writer, George Sand, his future mistress. Eugene Delacroix lived at 54, rue Notre -Dame de Lorette until he chose to move closer to his work, which at the time was the commission of painting the beautiful Chappelle des Anges in the church of Saint Sulpice. Delacroix was christened at Notre -Dame de Lorette in 1840.

This refined new quarter of Paris was populated by men of means, men profiting from the post-revolution boom of industrialization and modernization. They were men who kept mistresses, a typical convention of wealthy Parisians. So the neighborhood around the church of Notre- Dame de Lorette, also housed these women and these women went to church just like everyone else. An odd mix of Sunday worshippers, and fodder for one of the city’s best caricaturists, Paul Gavarni.

Gavarni’s cartoon-style illustrated the vices and shortcomings of all classes of society and the “other women” who sat praying beside the matriarchs of the household, were ripe subjects for derision. Gavarni’s caricatures of the kept women of Notre- Dame de Lorette, he entitled “Les Lorettes”. Imagine the gamut of emotions running amok each Sunday within that little house of God!
As with so many of the city’s monuments, this church has a secret history. One has only to delve a bit into the past to uncover remarkable stories just waiting to be retold.

A great time to visit Notre- Dame de Lorette would be on Wednesdays at 1:15 pm for a concert performed on the original Cavaille-Col grand organ.

Perhaps a light lunch up the street at 46, rue des Martyrs, the Rose Bakery , will put you in the mood. Also of note in the neighborhood is the Musee de la Vie Romantique, the former home and studio of artist Ary Scheffer (1795-1858), who painted portraits of Chopin, Lizst and other artistic friends who frequented his salons.

Notre -Dame de Lorette
9th Arrondisement
18, bis rue de Chateaudun
Metro: Notre- Dame de Lorette

Musee de la Vie Romantique
9th Arrondisement
16, rue Chaptal
Metro: Pigalle

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