I was first alerted to the existence of holy sites in Paris in 2004 by a group of Russian pilgrims from Yaroslavl while we were all staying at the then ROCOR (now schismatic) Lesna Convent of the Most-Holy Mother of God in Provement, France for the feast of Pentecost. They handed me a photo of an icon of St. Helen, Equal-to-the-Apostles, and managed to convey to me the idea that her relics were at “St. Denis.” Naturally I interpreted that to mean the church of St. Denis, where I promptly went as soon as I got back to Paris. The Basilica of St. Denis contains the tombs of nearly all of the French Kings and Queens but not the remains of St. Helen. The basilica is possibly the burial place of St. Denis, but there are no relics available for veneration. Some time after this trip I came across an article in the journal Road to Emmaus http://www.roadtoemmaus.net/back_issue_articles/RTE_25/A_CITY_OF_SAINTS.pdf which provided much better information. My tour of Notre Dame cathedral had alerted me to the presence there of Christ’s Crown of Thorns, but I hadn’t known until I read that article that there were extant relics of St. Genevieve still in Paris. Recently I was able to visit Paris again and actually venerate the relics of the saints I had missed my first trip there.
Relics in Paris, France
Christ’s Crown of Thorns
Notre Dame Cathedral
The Crown of Thorns worn by Christ during His Crucifixion is kept in the treasury of Notre Dame cathedral. The Crown, in it’s reliquary, is brought out for veneration by the faithful the first Friday of every month and every Friday during (Roman Catholic) Lent.
Notre Dame Cathedral is on the Ile de la Cite and may be accessed by the Saint Michel metro station. From the Saint-Michel metro station head east on Rue de l’Hirondelle toward Boulevard Saint-Michel. Turn left onto Boulevard Saint-Michel. Turn right onto Quai Saint-Michel. Turn left onto Rue de la Cite. Proceed across the Parvis Notre-Dame-Place Jean-Paul II
Notre Dame Cathedral
6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Place Jean-Paul II
75004 Paris, France
St. Genevieve of Paris
Church of St. Etienne du Mont
Until the French Revolution the relics of St. Genevieve were housed in a large stone reliquary. During the revolution the relics were pulled out, burned, and dumped in the Seine. However, a piece was saved. When you go into the church you can find the relics towards the back of the church, on the right-hand side. The large stone reliquary is what used to house St. Genevieve’s relics. Beyond the stand holding the votive candles is another, smaller, reliquary containing all that remains of St. Genevieve’s relics.
Her life may be found here: http://www.allsaintsbrookline.org/celtic_saints/genevieve.html
As is to be expected there are no icons of St. Genevieve for sale in this church. If you want to bless an icon on the relics you must bring it with you.
Another interesting thing about this church is that it the only church in paris (at least according to Lonely Planet that still has a rood screen. If you don’t know what a rood screen is, it is similar in concept to an iconostasis, something to separate the altar area from the rest of the church, and it is upon the top of the rood screen that the rood – the figure of the crucified Christ – would be affixed.
The church is open from 8:45am-7:30pm, Tuesday-Sunday, and closed on Monday.
To reach the church take the metro to the Cardinal Lemoine station. Head up the hill (away from the Arab World Institute) along the Rue de Cardinal Lemoine. Turn left at Rue Clovis. The church will be on your left at the end of the second block.
75005 Paris, France
St. Helen, Equal-to-the-Apostles
It turns out that the relics of St. Helen, Equal-to-the-Apostles are in the church of Saint-Leu-Saint-Giles on Rue Saint Denis. The relics are located in a sort of chapel area underneath the main altar.
A photograph of the icon may be purchased at the church. If the veneration area is closed the very nice lady who sells the postcards and things will happily open it for you. Also, periodically there are akathists read by local (Russian) Orthodox priests at the relics. A schedule (in Russian) is next to the door leading to the relics.
To get to the church of Saint-Leu-Saint-Giles take the metro to the Les Halles station. Head north towards Rue Rambuteau, turn left on Rue Rambuteau, turn left onto Rue Saint Denis.
Church of Saint-Leu-Saint-Gilles
92 Rue Saint-Denis
75001 Paris, France
Saints Genevieve and Helen pray to God for us!