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Saint-Germain-des-Prés (abbey)

saint-germain-des-pres (abbey)
Coordinates: 48°51′14″N 2°20′04″E / 4885389°N 233444°E / 4885389; 233444

The church as seen from south-west Place Jean-Paul-Sartre-et-Simone-de-Beauvoir

Saint-Germain-des-Prés French pronunciation: ​ is a parish church located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter of Paris Founded by Childebert I in the 540s as the Abbaye Sainte-Croix-Saint-Vincent, by the middle of the 8th century it had taken on the name of Saint Germanus French: Germain, the man appointed bishop of Paris by Childebert and later canonized Originally located beyond the outskirts of early medieval Paris, it became a rich and important abbey complex and was the burial place of Germanus and of Childebert and other Merovingian kings of Neustria At that time, the Left Bank was prone to flooding from the Seine, so much of the land could not be built upon and the Abbey stood in the middle of meadows, or prés in French, thereby explaining its appellation, which also serves to distinguish it from the church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois near the Louvre The oldest part of the current church is the prominent western tower partly restored and modified, which was built by Abbot Morard around the year 1000[1]


  • 1 History
  • 2 Burials
  • 3 Former configuration
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Inside of Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Prés recently restored, 2012 Limestone sculpture of Childebert, from the former refectory portal Louvre

The Abbey was founded in the 6th century by the son of Clovis I, Childebert I ruled 511–558 Under royal patronage the Abbey became one of the richest in France, as demonstrated by its ninth-century polyptych; it housed an important scriptorium in the eleventh century and remained a center of intellectual life in the French Catholic church until it was disbanded during the French Revolution An explosion of saltpetre in storage levelled the Abbey and its cloisters, but the church was spared the statues in the portal were removed illustration and some destroyed, and in a fire in 1794 the library vanished in smoke The abbey church remains as the Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of the oldest churches in Paris[2]

In 542, while making war in Spain, Childebert raised his siege of Zaragoza when he heard that the inhabitants had placed themselves under the protection of the martyr Saint Vincent In gratitude the bishop of Zaragoza presented him with the saint's stole When Childebert returned to Paris, he caused a church to be erected to house the relic, dedicated to the Holy Cross and Saint Vincent, placed where he could see it across the fields from the royal palace on the Île de la Cité

In 558, St Vincent's church was completed and dedicated by Germain, Bishop of Paris on 23 December, the very day that Childebert died Close by the church a monastery was erected Its abbots had both spiritual and temporal jurisdiction over the suburbs of Saint-Germain lasting till about the year 1670 The church was frequently plundered and set on fire by Vikings in the ninth century It was rebuilt in 1014 and rededicated in 1163 by Pope Alexander III to Saint Germain of Paris, the canonized Bishop of Paris and Childeric's chief counsellor The great wall of Paris subsequently built during the reign of Philip II of France did not encompass the abbey, leaving the residents to fend for themselves This also had the effect of splitting the Abbey's holdings into two A new refectory was built for the monastery by Peter of Montereau in around 1239 - he was later the architect of the Sainte-Chapelle

The abbey church's west end tower was pierced by a portal, completed in the twelfth century, which collapsed in 1604 and was replaced in 1606 by the present classicising portal, by Marcel Le Roy[3] Its choir, with its apsidal east end, provides an early example of flying buttresses

It gave its name to the quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Prés that developed around the abbey This area is also part of the Latin Quarter, because the Abbey donated some of its lands along the Seine—the Pré aux Clercs "fields of the scholars" for the erection of buildings to house the University of Paris, where Latin was the lingua franca among students who arrived from all over Europe and shared no other language

Until the late 17th century, the Abbey owned most of the land in the Left Bank west of the current Boulevard Saint-Michel and had administrative autonomy in it, most clearly for the part outside the walls of Paris

Louis-César de Bourbon, son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan, was an abbot here

In the 17th century the district of Saint-Germain was among the most desirable on the Left Bank Marguerite de Valois pressured the abbot to donate abbey land to her, too She built a palace on it, and set a fashionable tone for the area that lasted until the Saint-Honoré district north of the Champs-Élysées eclipsed it in the early eighteenth century Her palace was located at the current numbers 2-10 rue de Seine The gardens of the estate extended west to the current rue Bellechasse[4]

The tomb of philosopher René Descartes is located in one of the church's side chapels


Former configuration

At its apogee, the Abbey extended to the area now bordered to the north by the current rue Jacob, to the East by the rue de l'Echaudée, to the south by the south side of the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the rue Gozlin, and to the west by the rue St-Benoit[5]

A lady chapel was build c 1244-7, with glazed windows including a scene showing the death of St Germain; this is currently in the collection of Winchester College[6]

From 1275 to 1636, the pillory of the Abbey was located in the current Place d'Acadie, better known to Parisians as the Mabillon due to the eponymous Métro station located there This square was therefore called the Place du Pilori and the current rue de Buci leading to it was called the rue du Pilori[7]

The pillory was removed upon the rebuilding of the Abbey's prison in 1635 a prison had stood there since the Middle Ages It was located in what is now the Boulevard Saint-Germain, just west of the current Passage de la Petite Boucherie In 1675 it was requisitioned for a military prison The prison was known for its extremely poor condition, for example, in 1836, Benjamin Appert wrote :[8]

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The cells are abominable and so humid that the soldiers incarcerated there, often for minor offences, must subsequently go to the Val-de-Grâce hospital to recover from their imprisonment

The prison was the site of one of the September massacres of 1792 and was eventually destroyed to make way for the Boulevard Saint-Germain[9]

See also

  • France portal
  • Catholicism portal


  1. ^ Andrew Ayers 2004, The Architecture of Paris, pp 125–126 Stuttgart; London: Edition Axel Menges mw-parser-output citecitationmw-parser-output citation qmw-parser-output id-lock-free a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-free amw-parser-output id-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output id-lock-registration a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-registration amw-parser-output id-lock-subscription a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-subscription amw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registrationmw-parser-output cs1-subscription span,mw-parser-output cs1-registration spanmw-parser-output cs1-ws-icon amw-parser-output codecs1-codemw-parser-output cs1-hidden-errormw-parser-output cs1-visible-errormw-parser-output cs1-maintmw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registration,mw-parser-output cs1-formatmw-parser-output cs1-kern-left,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-leftmw-parser-output cs1-kern-right,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-rightmw-parser-output citation mw-selflinkISBN 9783930698967
  2. ^ "Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés", Fodor's Travel
  3. ^ Philippe Plagnieux, "Le portail du XIIe siècle de Saint-Germain-des-Prés à Paris: état de la question et nouvelles recherches" Gesta 281 1989, pp 21-29 p 22
  4. ^ Saint-Germain-des-Prés et son faubourg, p 203, Dominique Leborgne, Editions Parigramme, Paris 2005, ISBN 2-84096-189-X
  5. ^ Saint-Germain-des-Prés et son faubourg, Dominique Leborgne, Éditions Parigramme, Paris 2005, ISBN 2-84096-189-X
  6. ^ Hebron, Malcolm "The Death of St Germain, 1240s" In Foster, Richard ed 50 Treasures from Winchester College SCALA p 43 ISBN 9781785512209
  7. ^ Saint-Germain-des-Prés et son faubourg, p 125, Dominique Leborgne, Editions Parigramme, Paris 2005, ISBN 2-84096-189-X
  8. ^ Benjamin Appert, Bagnes, prisons et criminels, p 205, Guilbert, 1836, vol I
  9. ^ Saint-Germain-des-Prés et son faubourg, p 62, Dominique Leborgne, Éditions Parigramme, Paris 2005, ISBN 2-84096-189-X

External links

  • Photos
  • Article about the medieval stained glass in the abbey https://vidimusorg/issues/issue-21/feature/

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