Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Born at Pontoise, about 1585; died at Paris, 1654. Lemercier shares with Mansart and Le Muet the glory of representing French architecture most brilliantly under Louis XIII and Richelieu. He was likewise a sculptor and engraver. He imitated in a measure the strong but somewhat prosaic style of Salamon de Brosse. The French Renaissance had at that time already reached its last stage, but it still retained an important heritage from the days of Lescot. Lemercier was in Italy presumably from 1607 to 1613, and, while in Rome, probably engraved a model of St. Peter's. As early as 1618 he appears as royal architect with a salary of 1200 livres. In 1639 he became chief architect, in which capacity, having the supervision of all the royal building enterprises, he fell into a disagreeable dispute with the cultivated Poussin about the decorations in the Louvre. In general, he is considered a well-meaning, discreet character. Living entirely for his art, he thought very little of his profit, and, in spite of the great works which he executed it was found necessary after his death to sell his entire large library to cover his debts. He was highly extolled as the exponent of the classic tendencies of Palladio. Richelieu, in particular, entrusted him with a series of important works. As yet Lescot's plan for the Louvre had been scarcely half finished. The cardinal, an enthusiastic patron of architecture, placed Lemercier at the head of this undertaking in 1624. In carrying on the work begun by Lescot, Lemercier subordinated himself to the latter's style and design, but he followed his own ideas in his more substantial plan and in quadrupling the building area, each of the four sides having a pavilion at its centre. In this manner he built the northern half of the west side — the celebrated Pavilion de l'Horloge — and the western part of the north side. It is, however, an exaggerated opinion to regard the Pavilion de l'Horloge as the best example of French architecture.

After 1627, in Richelieu's personal service, Lemercier built the Château de Richelieu in Poitou and the parish church of the same town, in which he displayed his talents to splendid advantage. The castle was worthy of a king. In addition, he began the Palais-Cardinal at Paris in 1629, which, after its donation to the king, was known as the Palais Royal. He was likewise entrusted with the subsequent extension of this building, of which there remains at present only an interior wing. It is wanting in lightness and proportion in the disposal of its masses. The master earned great and well-merited renown by his work on the Sorbonne which was begun at the same time. The college and the church are both his work. The latter is noteworthy for its domical shape in the style of the Italian Renaissance (like Val-de-Grâce and the Invalides of the two Mansarts ). In France, contrary to the Italian custom, the exterior dome was made of wood, which was less monumental, though about the same in appearance. Lemercier inaugurated this economical method in his claustral dome over the Pavilion de l'Horloge. The dome presents a harmonious effect. It is a complete hemisphere, with four small cupolas in the Greek cross above the two orders of columns on the façade. The interior also makes a better effect than Mansart's dome of the Invalides, and was formerly intended to be beautifully decorated. The square intersection is surrounded by cylindrical vaults and a semicircular choir apse. The north side consists of a portico in classic style. The whole may be considered one of the finest buildings of that time.

Lemercier produced a similar result with his work on the abbey church of Val-de-Grâce, which he took up as the successor of Father Mansart. The latter had refused to execute an order requiring a change in the design, whereupon the principal part as far as the entablature appears to have been carried on by Lemercier and finished by other masters. The foundation of the church and royal abbey was determined upon at the birth of Louis XIV , and Louis himself, when six years of age (1645), laid the cornerstone. Here too the different orders of columns harmonize beautifully with the principal dome and the four smaller domes and their tambour . The front view is truly magnificent. In the details of execution a noble taste as well as great care, is evident. In 1635 Richelieu once again claimed the services of Lernercier for work on the Château de Rueil, near Paris, which he had acquired at that time. The artist's great patron was buried in the church of the Sorbonne in 1642. Lemercier continued to enjoy the favour of the court and the public. In 1645 he received as first of the royal architects a salary of 3000 livres. His last work was the plan of the church of St. Roch in Paris. He completed only the choir and part of the nave. A few unimportant earlier works, which are not unanimosly ascribed to Lemercier, also may be mentioned. In 1630 he built the choir of the church of the Oratorians in Paris after the design of Clément Métezeau, who had laid the cornerstone in 1621. The façade belongs to a later period. He also erected the Hotels de Liancourt and de La Rochefoucauld. Also ascribed to him are the Hotel de Longuevllle and the Château Silly, or Chilly, of Marshal d'Effiat. A hunting seat of Louis XIII, wlth splendid pleasure grounds, was a remarkable Versailles in miniature, forecasting the celebrated pleasure palace of a later period. The statue of Henry IV with the sarcophagus in the Lateran is a fine piece of plastic work

Jacques Lemercier had a younger brother François, who in 1636 represented him for a time in the capacity of architect. His two sons Jacques and François received a pension from the state to enable them to study Architecture. The Lemerciers of Pontoise were indeed one of those gifted families in which several members had a vocation for the same branch of art. The two celebrated churches of St. Maclou at Pontoise and St. Eustache in Paris have been traced to one Pierre Lemercier, who at Pontoise was succeeded immediately by Nicholas Lemercier and more remotely by a connection by marriage, Charles David. But the glorious church of St. Eustache was a greater source of renown for the family. According to Geymüller, whose opinion is hardly to be disputed, Pierre Lemercier's entire share in St. Maclou consisted in the somewhat unusual dome tower, and further inferences concerning St. Eustache would be without foundation.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 3:2-12
2 You have surely heard the way in which God ... Read More

Psalm, Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
2 Look, he is the God of my salvation: I shall have ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:39-48
39 You may be quite sure of this, that if the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Pope John Paul II
October 22: Karol J. Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his October 1978 ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter