San Luigi dei Francesi – A French Church in Rome

San Luigi dei Francesi is the National Church of France in Rome:

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San Luigi des Francesi by Ricardo André Frantz

Not far from Piazza Navona in Rome is San Luigi dei Francesi or Saint Louis des Francais in French (The Church of St. Louis of the French). There are five French churches in the Eternal City and San Luigi dei Francesi is the National Church of France in Rome.

The building of San Luigi dei Francesi began in 1518 when Cardinal Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici commissioned Jean de Chenevière to build a church for the French community. Building work stopped when Rome was sacked in 1527 and the church was finally completed in 1589.

San Luigi dei Francesi Facade

The white travertine façade is the work of Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana. Several sculptures on the facade of the building hint at the French connection of the church, including the marble coat of arms of France, the bas-reliefs of the Salamanders and the crest of Francois 1st.

Caravaggio and St Matthew

San Luigi dei Francesi houses many works of art such as the Assumption of the Virgin by Francesco Bassano (1589) and the frescoes of Domenichino on the life of Saint Cecilia (1616). A cast of prominent artists and painters worked on the internal decoration of San Luigi dei Francesi and the result of their work is evident in the magnificent interior.

However, the church’s most famous paintings are those in the Contarelli Chapel. Inspired by the figure of St. Matthew, Caravaggio produced some of his most famous works here including the three famous canvasses: The Calling of St Matthew, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.

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The Inspiration of St Matthew by Caravaggio

San Luigi dei Francesi Today

The church is a meeting point for the French community living in Rome and pilgrims passing through. In the Palace of St. Louis, next to the church, lives a community of French priests studying or working in Rome.

Music and Art in Papal Rome

“The Triumph of Music and Art in the Papal Rome” is an event that offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a guided tour of San Luigi dei Francesi’s artwork and a unique opportunity to hear the early Roman liturgical music that once filled Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, performed by the Schola Romana Ensemble.

While the Ensemble performs music by primarily Roman composers like Carissimi, Benevoli, and Pitoni, you will be led on the journey through the aisles of the Church of  San Luigi dei Francesi and introduced to the masterpieces of Caravaggio, Domenichino, and other important artists. The music will then accompany you to the Contarelli Chapel, where the paintings of Caravaggio are preserved. (Currently there are no performances at San Luigi dei Francesi.)

What magnificent way to enjoy music and art in Rome.


St. Louis of the French
Via S. Giovanna d’Arco, 5
00186 ROMA

Map of Piazza Navona:

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