Tucked away behind nondescript iron gates in the 19th arrondissement, at the end of a winding alleyway, is a tiny slice of countyside in the heart of the city. The Russian Church of St Serge de Radonege was built in 1850 and was originally a German Lutheran church. It was confiscated by the French state in 1914 and the land and the small wooden church were eventually put up for sale. After the 1917 revolution, the Alexandre Nevski church – the only Russian orthodox church in Paris at the time – was unable to hold the growing congregation of Russians fleeing to Paris, and the church was bought in 1924, thanks to donations, on the feast day of St Serge de Radonege.
I visited during the Rendezvous aux Jardins, one of my favourite festivals in France. Gardens all over the country open their gates to the public (last year I visited the incredible park of Matignon). The gardens of the church are lovingly tended by an association of volunteers, who have brought the abandoned gardens back to life over the past 10 years. The gardens were planted originally before being left to grow wild, and the gardeners of today garden in the footsteps of those who went before, restoring the gardens, and preserving the memory and history of the community and of this very special place.
- Eglise St Serge de Radonège, 93 rue de Crimée, 75019 Paris. metro: Laumière
The gardens are open during the Rendevous aux Jardins, the Journées du Patrimoine and other special events. Check their website (in French).