Please visit the website for times of services and details of other events.
The mission of Notre Dame de France is to:
- Create, maintain, enhance the pastoral care of the Roman Catholic Francophone community in London as an ethnic chaplaincy
- Evangelise in word and action
- Reach beyond the Francophone community in London,to touch the lives of the people in the West End
- Provide religious education and sacramental preparation for children and adults
- Engage in charitable works and other evangelisation activities
Notre Dame de France Chaplaincy to the French speaking Catholics in London
The church was built in 1868 within the existing walls of the rotunda of a panorama built by Burford in 1793. Along with a school and a hospital, it was part of a large mission entrusted to the Marist Fathers to respond to the dire needs of the French community which was living at the time in the area of Leicester Square and Soho. The building was executed according to the design of August Boileau who was one of the first architects to use steel in architecture. The church was badly hit by a bomb during WWII and reconstruction was needed.
The new building designed by Hector Corfiato was inaugurated in 1954 and kept the original circular plan. Famous artists contributed to its decoration: over the porch outside the visitor is welcomed by a Mater Misericordiae protecting the people carved by George Saupique; the reliefs decorating the jambs of the door below were executed by his 19 students at the Paris Ecole des Beaux Arts. Inside, above the main altar, a tapestry by the Benedictine monk Dom Robert de Chaunac woven at Aubusson immediately attracts the eye; in one of the side chapels Jean Cocteau executed a mural representing scenes of Our Lady’s life. On the other side, the baptismal fonts are made of pink sandstone and are the work of craftsmen from Strasbourg. In the gallery above stands a copy of the statute of Notre Dame des Victoires in Paris.
In spite of a gradual geographical shift of the French population away from the area, the Marist Fathers are still in charge of their spiritual welfare and in particular are responsible for the chaplaincy attached to the French Lycee of South Kensington and also the pastoral needs of other French primary schools in London. The community’s pastoral care extends also locally.
The Marists are at the origin of a social and information centre for young people created in 1951 and still operating today: the Centre Charles Peguy. A Refugee Centre created in 1996 is also supported and housed by the church. Many French speakers from the African continent come to worship and meet socially in the church. A branch of the conference St Vincent de Paul meets weekly. The Hall nearby is host to other groups such as the AA and an Alpha course in French.
The church strives to provide a peaceful place for the many visitors passing through the Leicester Square area. A small room has been set aside in the church to provide a place where people can talk confidentially. Volunteers are offering this service every weekday afternoon.
The original organ was rebuilt and enlarged several times but has kept many of its 1868 pipes. It is uniquely appropriate for the accompaniment and improvisational requirements of the French liturgy. It can be heard at the weekend’s masses as well as during monthly recitals.