The American Church and American Cathedral in Paris

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Americans in Paris and France

View of Paris at night
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images News

Americans have been visiting and living in Paris and the rest of France for centuries. Among the first was Thomas Jefferson, who famously wrote: “Every man has two countries, his own and France.”

There are no official statistics for the numbers of American expatriates in France, but it’s estimated that over 100,000 live there, making the country one of the top 10 destinations for American expatriates.

Paris was always the main attraction, with the south of France, with its easy living and superb light, coming a close second. The art capital of the world in the 19th century attracted writers and artists so it’s appropriate that the American Church in Paris was the first American church established outside the United States. 

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The American Church in Paris

american church paris
Wikimedia Commons

American Protestants, without a convenient Protestant church or services in English, started worshipping together in their own apartments in 1814, but it wasn’t until 1857 that they had a sanctuary at 21 rue de Berri off the Champs-Elysées, costing all of $46,000. It rapidly became too small for the growing congregation, so in 1931 the new church was built at 65 Que d’Orsay.

It’s a large building on a Gothic plan, with a splendid organ and the only windows in France from the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York.

The American Church has always been a center for visiting Americans; U.S Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and World War II hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower all worshipped here. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr preached here on October 24, 1965, and Daniel Berrigan, America’s ‘Street Priest’ and outspoken activist, as well as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and James Baldwin came here as students in the 1960s.

Practical Information

American Church in Paris
65 quai d’Orsay, 7th arrondissement
Tel.: 00 33 (0)1 40 62 05 00

Metro Station: Invalides

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The American Cathedral in Paris

American Cathedral
ean Béraud (Musée Carnavalet) /Wikimedia Commons

The American Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity had its origins in the 1830s when American Episcopalians met in various different expat households.

In 1864 a small church was built on Rue Bayard but within 10 years it was too small. The then rector John B. Morgan took very little time to raise the necessary funds for a larger church; he was a cousin of J. P. Morgan and the neo-Gothic building was completed within 4 years of the plans being approved. The inaugural service was in September 1886 and the church was consecrated on Thanksgiving Day, November 25th in 1886, the same day that the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York. In 1922, the church became a cathedral.

The church was designed by the English architect, George Edmund Street, designer of the American Church in Rome. Inside the chancel and nave are in stone, with the vault made of oak. There’s a delightful cloister, designed as a memorial to the American soldiers and civilians killed during WWI. It surrounds a cloister used for summer concerts.

The cathedral is easy to spot if you’re near the Champs-elysées; easy to spot, the tower is among the tallest in Paris at 280 ft (85 metres).

Practical Information

American Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity
23 Avenue George V, 8th arrondissement​
Metro Station: George V or Alma

While the American Church and Cathedral are open for worship all through the year, they're particularly popular at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas for both the permanent congregation and for visiting Americans. 

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