Sainte-Genevieve was born in 422 and became religious at a very young age. Once she moved to Paris, she became known for being religious and helping others. Catholic saints are known for some type of miracle that they made happen, and Genevieve’s was a vision predicting that the Huns were going to invade. She used her religion to calm others living in the area and assured them that they were protected by heaven. The Huns invaded and were unsuccessful in their quest. The location of the Church of Sainte-Genevieve is important to understanding the construction of Saint Etienne du Mont. Clovis, the King at the time, said that he would build a church if he conquered the king of a Visigoths, Alaric II. Clovis narrowed down his sights on Paris where the Church of Sainte-Genevieve was ultimately built. Once the Sainte-Genevieve church became outdated, Saint Etienne du Mont was chosen to be constructed nearby so that the people could still have a church to use for practicing their religion, which is how the Sainte-Genevieve relics and tomb made their way into the Church of Saint Etienne du Mont.
The construction of the Saint Etienne du Mont Church was very expansive, taking 107 years to complete. This explains why the church started with a Gothic apse and ended with features from the Renaissance when the final altar was blessed in 1626. From the exterior of Saint Etienne du Mont, the façade, which was built between 1610 and 1622, is very evident. The façade resembles Renaissance style but also obtains Gothic style as the building reaches the top where the bell tower is. The original façade was destroyed during the Revolution and had to be re-constructed in the nineteenth century by Victor Baltard. Beside the church, Louis d’Orleans built a mansion for himself to live in sometime in the 18th century, referred to as the presbytery.
The interior of Saint Etienne du Mont is very detailed. The Sainte-Genevieve chapel, rood screen, pulpit, and organ are all aspects of the church that have significance to the audience and meanings connected to the past. Rood screens were popular in the Middle Ages to separate the crowd attending the mass from the priest and choir. As time went on, rood screens were left behind to allow for all people to be visible in the church, but Saint Etienne still has their rood screen, the only one left in Paris. The pulpit is now used as the place where the priest preaches, and is Baroque style with depictions of Saints Stephen, Augustine, and Jerome. The organ at Saint Etienne du Mont has been altered for centuries by numerous people, including Pierre le Pescheur. There are 7,000 total pipes on the organ, some of which are nearly twenty feet tall, but they are not all able to be seen from the audience. In 1956, the organ was made bigger by Maurice Durufle and other work on it has taken place in 1975 and the early 21st century.
Stained-glass windows are present throughout the church, depicting Saints Stephen and Etienne. These windows depict the death and ascension into heaven of Saint Etienne as well as Saint Stephen preaching and a wild beast watching over his dead body. The stained-glass windows in the ambulatory of the church are notable because they have been in place since this portion of the church was built. Many of the other stained-glass windows in the gallery were created and have been in Saint Etienne du Mont church since the early seventeenth century.
Saint Etienne du Mont is unlike many other churches because of its affiliation with more than one saint. This church is special because of its creation as a result of the abbey of Sainte-Genevieve succumbing to a fire during the Revolution. Because of Sainte-Genevieve’s vision in seeing that the Huns were going to invade, thus allowing her to urge others to pray for their safety, she is remembered today during her novena between January 3-11 where people from all over the world visit Saint Etienne du Mont Church to pray to her in the candlelit church.