St-Germain des Près, Paris
The history of Saint-Germain-des-Pres goes back to 543 AD, when King Childebert decided to build a new basilica. The building has of course expanded and changed throughout the years, but it has always kept its religious purpose. It was badly damaged during the Revolution and left in such a state of disrepair that the authorities seriously considered taking it down. The church was saved by a group of Parisians led by none other than Victor Hugo, who once lived nearby at no. 30 rue du Dragon. Intensive restoration work ensued and, in my opinion, it is now one of the nicest churches in Paris!
Saint-Germain-des-Pres is open to visitors every day of the week (no admission fees).
Saint-Germain certainly is another beautiful place to take a walk and enjoy the Parisian atmosphere.
Located on the left bank and dominated by the beautiful church with the same name, Saint-Germain has narrow streets with small old shops, beautiful buildings and numerous coffee shops.
The beautiful church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres is the oldest in Paris.
Today, from the old Romanesque church from 11 C with three tall bell towers, only one remained.
The interior of the church is not as big as we would expect, due to the fact that the church was intended to be monastery chapel and not parish church.
Among the things we can admire inside are: St Symphorian's Chapel with the tomb of St Germanus, the tomb of John Casimir, King of Poland and Mausoleum of James Douglas.
Just walking through the streets and neighborhoods of Paris is a joy. This photo shows a shop and two very high wooden doors to the left that open to a walkway and courtyard where there may be homes that are hidden away from the street.
There are so many beautiful churches in Paris - probably more than in any other city I've visited - that I find it impossible to say which is my favourite. However, in terms of sheer simplicity and purity of line, the exquisite Romanesque St Germain-des-Pres would have to win hands down.
St Germain-des-Pres is the oldest church in Paris and was founded as a Benedictine monastery by Childebert in 542. At the time, it was located just outside the city walls of Paris ('des Pres' means 'in the water meadows'). It served as the burial place for the Merovingian kings and became one of the wealthiest monasteries in France during the Middle Ages, but much of the complex was destroyed by fire and other disasters over the centuries and the former royal occupants were relocated to the royal necropolis at St Denis, leaving behind only the church. In particular, I find the bell tower over the main entrance to be endearingly sturdy, as it was designed to bear the weight of the enormous bells on foundations that were regularly waterlogged when the Seine flooded.
In keeping with its monastic past, the interior of the church is unstated and very peaceful. It has an evocative atmosphere and is the sort of place where you cannot help but feel a connection across the centuries to the Dark Ages in which the monastery was at the zenith of its importance.
The church is nice, but what is most special is the chapel to the right as you enter. It is not always open -- I think Tuesday and Thursday afternoons it is staffed by volunteers who will be happy to explain how what you see includes the remains of several centuries of building. The older woman who was my guide only spoke French, but was very patient with me as I worked to understand:)
Just outside the church you will find a small square, a nice open respite in a busy area.
The Saint-Germain-des-Prés church is the oldest roman sanctuary in Paris. It housed a renowned Benedictine abbey in the 8th century where the foundations of archaelogy and palaeofraphy were laid. Here, in this church lies René Descartes, the father of modern philosophy (his skull, by the way, is kept at the Musée de l'Homme... no comments).
Besides the church, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district consists of beautiful cafés, great little shops and a great atmosphere, where you could spend a whole afternoon walking or enjoying the view at a local café.
Saint-Germen-de-Pres stands on that place where in 543 a basil for storage of a particle of the Cross was constructed. In the VIII century the Benedict abbey was established there which existed more than 1000 years. Within the revolution the building seriasly suffered from fires. Then the building undergone many reconstruction as a result of which in the present church different architectural styles mixed up. The facade of the church kept the rests of a portal of the XII century. Rene Descartes - the great mathematician and the Polish king Jan Kazimir were buried in the church. Jan Kazimir in 1668 abdicated and became the abbey of Saint-Germen.
With bits and pieces from the 6th century through the 20th, this is Paris' oldest church. It is named after a canonized bishop who is thought to have been entombed in 576 in an abbey chapel which once stood on this site, and which was also the burial place of early French royalty. The events of history have been not been kind to many of France's churches and this one is no exception. The original was destroyed by the Normans; the abbey, used as a prison during the Revolution, vanished in an explosion of stored gunpowder; and the church itself was stripped of relics and treasure.
Restoration during the 19th century brought some of the original furnishings and the purpose of worship back to this battered old lady. Some newer paintings and decoration added during this period thankfully enhance rather than distract from those dating back many centuries. Tombs include philosopher René Descartes; the heart of King John (Jan) II Casimir Vasa, abdicated King of Poland-Lithuania and former abbott of the church; and the (presumed) original burial site of Saint Germain.
Entrance is free; see the website for hours and more details.
Literary and artistic enthusiasts, stop for lunch or a glass of wine at nearby Cafe de Flore, Les Deux-Magots (we did this one) or Brasserie Lipp. All three were once of the haunts of some big names in literature, philosophy and the arts.
Be sure to go around the side of St-Germain des Près to the small garden, but before you get there be sure to look up and notice the building itself. It has suffered much since its orgins in the 6th century. Only the great tower and the choir of the 12th century remain from earlier times.
This beautiful Sevres fountain is in the small garden behind the church. Please look at the doorknobs & details travelogue for another great shot of the ceramics.
The Sevres Porcelain factory was founded in 1738 and was located originally at Chateau Vincennes. In 1759 it was moved by the then owner, Louis XV, to the town of Sevres southwest of Paris ville where it was produced into teh 20th century.
St. Germain des Pres is reported to be the oldest church in Paris. During much of its existence there was also a large Benedictine abbey complex, of which only fragments remain.
The picture on the left is the church. In the picture of the shop on the right you can see some old stones -- these are part of the old abbey that have been incorporated into the shop's design.
The website documents a massacre of prisoners that took place at the abbey during the French Revolution.
The abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is the oldest surviving church in Paris. Its bell tower is also one of the oldest surviving in the whole of France. Built in 1014 AD, the abbey replaced a 6th century church that had been destroyed by the Normans in the 9th century. It originally had two additional towers on either side of its apse, but they were deemed unstable and removed in the early 19th century. The abbey was continuously added to and remodelled over the centuries. Although its interior has conserved some original details, particularly in its ambulatory chapels, the nave and aisles of the church were completely altered in the 19th century with flamboyant polychrome decorations. Saint-Germain-des-Prés gave the surrounding neighbourhood its name, and the district has now become one of the trendiest in Paris.
One of the results of baron Haussmann's street planning of Paris, boulevard Saint-Germain was cut through the left bank of Paris in a curve from west to east. The wide boulevard's name refers to the once suburb of Paris, faubourg Saint-Germain, which later became the literary district of the City of Lights. The focal point of the district, located where rue Bonaparte intersects boulevard Saint-Germain, is famous for cafés/restaurants (les Deux Magots, Café de Flore and le Procope) which historic characters, such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, are known to have frequented. Beyond the wide avenue, however, are narrow streets and small squares with pre-18th century buildings that recall an older Paris with a mediaeval character. Nowadays, the Saint-Germain area is one of the trendiest districts in Paris with many high-end and start-up designer label shops, boutique hotels, and chic restaurants. Strolling through the area one afternoon in Paris is well worth the time.
At Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, across from the church, there is a casting of the sculpture Prometheus (Le Prométhée) by Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967), showing Prometheus bringing fire to the people, as he did in ancient Greek mythology.
Another casting of the same sculpture can be seen in the University Library in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
But you don’t have to go all the way to Frankfurt to see more of Zadkine’s work, because the Zadkine Museum in Paris is just one and a half kilometers from Saint-Germain-des-Prés – an easy five minute bicycle ride via Rue de Rennes and Rue d’Assas.
Second photo: Zadkine’s Prometheus with cars and the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Third photo: Prometheus with the building of the ‘Society for the encouragement of national industry’ in the background.
Fourth photo: A Wallace Fountain at Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Fifth photo: Looking up Rue de Rennes towards the Montparnasse Tower, from Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Address: Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 75006 Paris
Directions: Location on the Vélib’ map. The nearest Vélib’ station is number 6012 at 141 Boulevard Saint Germain.
Married in the town hall of the 13th with the sculpture "The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Zadkine.
Next Paris review from March 2014: Delacroix Museum