St-Germain-Des-Prés, Paris

St-Germain-des-Prés is the oldest church in Paris. Parts of it date to the 6th century, when a Benedictine abbey was founded on the site by Childebert, son of Clovis.

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History of St-Germain-Des-Prés

The church was originally founded by Childebert to house a relic of the True Cross brought from Spain in 542. In the Middle Ages, the Church of St-Germain-des-Pres was so powerful, both religiously and culturally, that it became like a town within the town.

Unfortunately, the Normans all but destroyed the abbey at least four times, and only the marble columns in the triforium remain from the original structure. The carved capitals on the pillars are copies of the originals, which are kept in the Musée National du Moyen-Age.

The church was enlarged and reconsecrated by Pope Alexander III in 1163. The abbey was completely destroyed during the Revolution, but the church was spared.

What to See at St-Germain-Des-Prés

The present building, incorporating repairs and enlargements from various eras, is a fine example of Romanesque architecture. The Romanesque square tower, dating from the early 11th century, is topped by the church's landmark spire, which dates to the 19th century.

Inside, the church consists of a Romanesque nave and a Gothic choir with gilded capitals. The marble columns of the triforium are the only survivors of the 6th-century abbey church.

For a time, the abbey was a pantheon for Merovingian kings. Many of them were buried in the Chapelle de St-Symphorien, which was restored in 1981. Among the others interred here are Descartes (just his heart; the rest is in the Pantheon) and Jean-Casimir, the king of Poland who abdicated his throne.

The colorful 19th-century frescoes in the nave are by Hippolyte Flandrin, a pupil of the classical master Ingres. Romanesque paintings were discovered on the triumphal arch in the 1981 restorations.

St-Germain-des-Prés stages concerts and recitals featuring Gregorian chant, which are enhanced by the church's fantastic acoustics and medieval atmosphere. For more information, call tel. 01-43-25-41-71. Arrive about 45 minutes before the performance for a front-row seat. Tickets are €15 to €50.

St-Germain-des-Pres is located in the lively Left Bank neighborhood of the same name, which is itself well worth a visit. Facing the church is the Café des Deux Magots which, like its neighbor the Café de Flore, was the favorite haunt of intellectuals like Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir immediately after World War II.

Quick Facts on St-Germain-Des-Prés

Site Information
Names:Church of St. Germain des Pres · St-Germain-des-Prés
Country:France
Categories:churches
Styles:Romanesque; Gothic
Dedication: St. Germain
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:48.853950° N, 2.334477° E
Address:3 Pl. St-Germain-des-Prés
Paris, France
75006
Phone:01-55-42-81-33
Website:www.eglise-sgp.org
Hours:Mon-Sat 8am-7:45pm; Sun 9am-8pm
Lodging:View hotels near St-Germain-Des-Prés
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Personal visit (July 21, 2008).
  2. St-Germain-des-Pres – Fodor's Online Travel Guide
  3. St-Germain-des-Prés – Frommer's Attraction Review
  4. St. Germain des Pres – Virtual Tourist user reviews and photos

More Information

Side view of St. Germain-des-Pres. © Holly Hayes
Flying buttresses on the southeast exterior. © Holly Hayes
Detail of the Romanesque west tower, viewed from south. © Holly Hayes
West facade and tower. © Holly Hayes
Nave looking east. © Holly Hayes
The sun illuminates the medieval interior. © Nick Leonard
Interior of the apse. © Holly Hayes

Map of St-Germain-Des-Prés, Paris

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