Gregorian chants in a Lutheran church in Paris

In striking contrast to the nearby Sainte-Chapelle and Notre-Dame, the Evangelical Lutheran Church des Billettes is austere and undecorated, with bare walls and plain-glass windows.

I went there one evening in the summer of 2008 to hear a concert of Gregorian chants from the 10th to 13th centuries, sung by unaccompanied men’s voices.

The two singers of the evening

Years ago, I was intrigued by a short sequence of Gregorian chants in an otherwise unmemorable Spanish film, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to hear some more.

Well, it was, but it turned out that there were only two men singing at this concert, not a whole choir, and after a while the chants got to be quite monotonous for someone like me who knew little or nothing about them.

The other forty people in the audience didn’t seem to have this problem, so I suppose Gregorian chants are an acquired taste like a lot of other things. I’ll try again sometime, but with better preparation and in a more attractive venue.

Gay bar on rue des Archives

Before going into the Église des Billettes for the concert, I noticed a lot of people on the sidewalk across the street.

I naively assumed that they were queuing to get into a disco or cinema, but when I came out after the concert they were still there, so I took a closer look and realized that they were all men, all fairly young-looking and somewhat muscular, most with short or no hair.

So gradually it dawned on me that this must be a gay bar, and a quick internet search later confirmed that this part of the Marais district is indeed one of the main gay neighborhoods of Paris, with dozens of gay bars including this one.

The agreement seems to be that they are allowed to stand around and drink on the sidewalk, but not spill over onto the street. Hence the red guide rope, which is what made me think they were lining up for something.

Location and aerial view of the Église des Billettes on monumentum.fr.

My photos in this post are from 2008. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on the Marais district of Paris.
See more posts on concert venues in European cities.

7 thoughts on “Gregorian chants in a Lutheran church in Paris”

  1. I agree about the Gregorian chants. A little is nice. A lot – not so much.

    Very quick of you to figure out the gay bar. I don’t know if I would have been able to come to that conclusion.

  2. The Gregorian chants make more sense if you hear them in context. Try to attend one of the Offices at a monastery or better yet, a Gregorian Mass at a church with good music. Notre Dame in Paris has always had a wonderful Gregorian Mass but that won’t be available until they repair it from the fire. St. Sulpice and St. Eustache both have wonderful free organ recitals but I’m not sure if they offer Gregorian Masses. None of them are offering much right now but the virus must end some time. A local monastery might be your easiest choice when things open up a little. The chants are incredibly beautiful when heard in context.

  3. I love to listen to Gregorian Chants and often do so while I’m writing. Hearing a choir live would be heavenly. Excited for your visit but sorry you didn’t get the full choir experience. 😟❤️

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