Edith Piaf church in New York closes after final French mass
The French Catholic church of Manhattan, where Edith Piaf was married, finally closed its doors after the last mass on Sunday, when parishioners and supporters lost a five year battle to keep it open.
In 1952 the legendary French singer Edith Piaf married her second husband, singer Jacques Pills in the church, with Marlene Dietrich in attendance as Matron of Honour, though the marriage ended in divorce four years later.
The Church of Saint Vincent de Paul was built in 1869, on the corner of 23rd St. and 6th Avenue, in the Chelsea district of Manhattan.
In recent decades few people have regularly attended mass there and it was badly in need of repair, leading the Archbishop of New York to decide in 2007 to close it down.
Nicolas Sarkozy lent his support to the campaign to keep the church open, when as French president in 2009, he wrote to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg that it was "an important element of French identity and the French-speaking world in the heart of Manhattan."
The church was not repaired after damage from tropical storm Irene in August 2011.
On Sunday the church was packed for the final mass and many of the congregation shed tears and expressed their dismay.
The church was situated in a part of Manhattan where property fetches extremely high prices and some parishioners suggested the church had been closed simply to make money from the sale.