Signs of the Orthodox faith

Signs of the Orthodox faith

The Orthodox churches – eastern and western – are mainly represented in Paris and in the southeast of France.
Their places of worship are not ancient monuments but they constitute a veritable heritage of sacred art. An architectural style often symbolised by the onion shaped domes on the roofs and collections of precious icons are typical signs of Orthodoxy.

Practical information

Useful to know

- An icon is a small painting on wood, with gold leaf, typical of Orthodox sacred art.
- An iconostasis is a wooden partition separating the nave from the altar, on which hangs a collection of icons.
- The denomination "Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin" is often attributed to the places of worship. The term "Dormition" is the Orthodox version of the Assumption: when the Virgin Mary rose to heaven.
– There are some 300 million followers of the Orthodox religion all over the world, and 750,000 in France.
- The liturgy and the calendar of Orthodox religious festivals are different from those of the Roman Catholic Church.
- The date of Easter – the most important festival which gives rise to the highly symbolic tradition of painted eggs – is calculated according to references to the lunar cycle. It is then translated to the Julian calendar (the rules established by Julius Caesar in 46 BC!), whereas the Roman Catholics base their calendar on the Gregorian one... established in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.

La France orthodoxe [Orthodox France]: a website listing the places of worship

An interactive map of France shows the places of worship. The site explains all the cultural diversity and also a certain unity in the religious doctrine. This closeness of the various churches is asserted by the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops (or Metropolites) of France

La diversité orthodoxe [Orthodox diversity]: a website by the Orthodox church in France

The Orthodox churches are therefore grouped together, although some of the rites of worship differ according to geographic and cultural origins of the communities. Various hierarchies are recognised by different communities: the Patriarchy of Moscow, Patriarchy of Constantinople, etc.

Places of worship


Cathédrale orthodoxe russe Saint Alexandre Nevski [Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky]
Located in the rue Daru (8th arrondissement) and a listed monument, this cathedral pays homage to a great prince of the 13th century. Alexander Nevsky defended the Russian frontiers against the Teutonic knights and the Tartars, and also brought peace to the whole of his huge country. This very pious statesman became a monk at the end of his life. The building was consecrated in 1861, under Napoleon III. Today it is the seat of the Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe, under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchy of Constantinople. It is built in the shape of a Greek cross and its apses are topped by domed turrets. The five domes symbolise Christ accompanied by the four Evangelists, and the central spire is 48 metres high.

Cathédrale ukrainienne gréco-orthodoxe Saint-Vladimir-le-Grand [Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Vladimir the Great]
Built at the intersection of the boulevards Saint-Germain and Saints-Pères (in the Latin quarter, 6th arrondissement), this cathedral has stood since 1943 on the site of a former chapel of the Hospital of Charity. Vladimir 1, known as Vladimir the Great or "red sun", reigned over Russia with the title of Grand Prince, from 980 to 1015. A great warrior and pagan, he converted to Christianity in the Byzantine ritual and was baptised in 988. An entire Slav population thus passed into the arms of the Orthodox church.

L'église orthodoxe russe de Saint-Séraphin de Sarov [The Russian Orthodox church of Saint Seraphim of Sarov]
Surrounded by vegetation, a small wooden building topped by a fine blue dome nestles in the 15th arrondissement. This "country" church has been there since 1932 and leads the Russian Orthodox parish of Saint Seraphim and of the Protection of the Mother of God. Visits are organised regularly.

La Cathédrale grecque orthodoxe Sainte-Stéphane [The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Stephanie]
Seat of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France, this cathedral was built in 1895 and has seen some important events, such as the marriage of Edith Piaf and the funeral of the opera singer Maria Callas.


Eglise de la Dormition-de-la Mère-de-Dieu [Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin]
The huge port of Marseille began its trade on the Mediterranean some 2,600 years ago, and has always enjoyed a certain cosmopolitism. This Greek Orthodox parish has been here since 1820-1835, originally led by a community of well-to-do merchants and ship owners. The church today has a collection of nearly forty icons from the 18th and 20th centuries.

Eglise grecque melkite Saint-Nicholas-de-Myre [Greek Melchite Church of Saint Nicholas of Myra]
This church built in 1821 is original for its dual vocation, celebrating both Romanian and Byzantine rites.


Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas-le-Thaumaturge [Cathedral of Saint Nicholas the Thaumaturge]
This parish has been in existence since 1860, under the impulse of a Russian community settled on the Riviera, in the wake of the entire European aristocracy who chose to winter in luxury on the shores of the Baie des Anges. Some came for health reasons to enjoy the climate. The Russian community raised money, under the protection of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the widow of Nicolas 1.
The church of Saint Nicolas (on the boulevard Tsarevich), which became a cathedral in 1912, houses a crypt and a museum. It boasts a fine architectural scale and is characteristic, with its large green domes.

Eglise Saint-Nicolas et-Sainte-Alexandra [Church of Saint Nicholas and Saint Alexandra]
Located on the rue de Longchamp, this Russian Orthodox Church was the first of its kind built in France, in 1859. Today it is affiliated to the Exarchate of Russian Orthodox parishes of Western Europe, and depends on the Patriarchy of Constantinople. /wiki/Fichier:Logomonumclass%C3%A9.gif The church and the garden next door are listed by the Council of Nicaea (in 325) which confirms the status of Eastern Orthodox churches.

The Armenian Church

A wave of emigration following the genocide in 1915 committed by the Ottoman Empire led to settlements of Armenians, particularly in Marseille.

The Russian Church

A small community of Russian nobility who admired French culture had already settled in Paris in the 19th century (after the Napoleonic Empire), including, for example, the writers Ivan Turgenev and Countess Rostopchin... who married to become the successful writer and storyteller Mme de Ségur.

But it was especially after 1920, at the time of the Bolshevik revolution, that the so-called "White" Russians (tsarists) arrived in France in their thousands.
They took exile for example in Corsica, for a time, and then spread throughout France. There was a huge settlement in Savoie, up until 1931: 2,000 Russian workers were employed in the Ugine steelworks. All that is left is a simple wooden hut on the side of the road through the Arly gorges, which was used as a humble Orthodox church.

Notably, a whole community settled more or less by habit on the Côte d'Azur, in Nice and the surrounding area. One example was Marc Chagall, of Jewish Byelorussian origin, an exceptional artist, who settled in Vence in 1948.

Today, some sixty French towns are twinned with their Russian counterparts.

And also...

Other Orthodox churches or places of worship are found in France, including:
- The Convent of the Presentation of the Virgin, in Bussy en Othe (in the Yonne department south of Paris)
- The Church of Saint Nicolas, rue Sainte-Geneviève, in Lyon
- The Church of the Resurrection, rue Centrale, in Toulon
- The Church of the Protection of the Blessed Virgin and of Saint Alexander Nevsky, in Biarritz
- The Church of Notre-Dame de l'Assomption, in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois

Other landmarks...

Lieux de culte de l'église grecque [Greek Orthodox church], by the Greek Embassy
Métropole Orthodoxe Roumaine d'Europe Occidentale et Méridionale [Romanian Orthodox Metropolitanate of Western and Southern Europe]

Things to see