AFTER 11 years of having its north tower hidden from view by scaffolding, the Saint-Sulpice church in Paris is finally able to show its full beauty again after a €28 million restoration project.
Built in the 17th century, it is one of the most beautiful churches in the city, but has been disfigured by the scaffolding and mesh that covered the repair works while parts of the north tower were dismantled stone by stone.
The works, paid for half and half by the state and the Ville de Paris, were vital to repair damage started by Prussian gunners in 1871 and added to by decades of pollution and weathering since.
The metal frame of the tower was badly corroded and dangerous, and the repair works meant dismantling the belfry and its five bells (Thérèse, Caroline, Louise, Marie et Henriette, weighing 54 tonnes in total) and four statues.
It is famous these days for being mentioned in the Da Vinci Code, where author Dan Brown said the gnomon used to mark the solstices was the Paris meridian and a clue to
unlock the secret of the Holy Grail.
Many thousands have visited the church searching for their own grail, to the dismay of the church authorities, for whom it is still a place of worship. They put up a notice, in English, saying: "Contrary to fanciful allegations in a recent bestselling novel, this is not the vestige of a pagan temple. No such temple ever existed in this place."
Sited on the Rive Gauche and not far from Notre Dame, it hosted the marriage of Victor Hugo and the baptisms of the Marquis de Sade and Baudelaire.
Inside, it has frescoes by Delacroix, but its real attraction is the 1781 organ, one of the world's largest with 6,588 pipes.