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Charpentier at L’Eglise St. Louis

The music on Magnificat’s December concerts was composed during Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s tenure as maître de musique at the principal Jesuit Church of St Louis in Paris. As a result of his early education, both in France and Rome, and his inclinations as a composer, Charpentier had ideal credentials as a Jesuit composer, and benefited from the Jesuits’ liberal, even worldly, approach to the arts and religious education; the decade he spent working for the Jesuits was remarkably productive.

The sumptuously decorated Eglise St. Louis, now called St. Paul-St. Louis, was built on Rue Saint-Antoine in the affluent Marais district. Its congregation was wealthy and sophisticated and they no doubt greatly appreciated (and generously supported!) the Church’s lavish architecture, marble, gold and silver ornament and exquisite paintings. They would have also appreciated Charpentier’s sensuous and expressive music performed by the finest musicians in Paris, including singers from the Opera.

Commissioned by Louis XIII, who ceremoniously laid the first stone in 1627, the church was completed by 1641 and is one of the oldest examples of Jesuit architecture in Paris. The design of L’Eglise St. Louis, directed by Etienne Martellange and Francois Derand, was inspired by the baroque-style Gesu Church in Rome, and incorporates elements of both Italian and French architectural styles.

In addition to Charpentier, other great musicians of the Baroque period employed as masters of music at the church include Jean-Philippe Rameau, Andre Campra, and Louis Marchand.

The gallery below of contemporary photos of L’Eglise St. Paul-St. Louis were found on this webpage. Click here to view a panoramic slideshow of the interior of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church supplied by Panoramic Earth

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