Saint Germain Des Pres

The Saint Germain des Pres Church in Paris France

The St Germain Des Pres is a Romanesque church and was the heart of a monastery that covered a large portion of the area. The Abbey held legal jurisdiction of the village which surrounded it. The Church stands at the heart of the famous quarter which goes by the same name. This church is the oldest of all Paris churches. The Saint Germain de Pres was originally constructed in the 6th Century and it was a very important part of the Benedictine Abbey.

The church which stands there today as a popular Paris attraction is just a small piece of the monastery itself. The area where the church sits is a very active part of Paris on the Left Bank of the Seine River. Centuries ago, it was the center of the monastery and the monastery was the centre of the village. The church’s square front has restaurants and bistros, cafes and shops all around it. In the early to mid 20th Century, the cafes were visited frequently by many well known artists and writers.

The abbey stood in the middle of a great prairie from which it took its name “des Pres,” literally Saint Germain of the Meadows or Fields. The monastery remained separated from the city for hundreds of years. In 1193 Philippe Auguste built his wall around Paris and the monastery remained outside. Childebert gave the abbots land in Issy and the area where the Saint Andre des Arts is now when he established the monastery. This made the monastery a very large landholder on the Left Bank. The inhabitants of the village in 1255 were considered as a body entirely separate from the city of Paris.

They enjoyed special immunities and had their own laws. The village was inhabited by servants of the abbey in the 13th century and most of them were farmers. The village was primarily a collection of stables and barns that surrounded the main monastery buildings. The monastery was surrounded by a moat filled with water from the Seine during the war with England in 1368. The area then became very fashionable after the 16th century and many wealthy business people and aristocrats built homes there.

The church of St Germain des Pres and the abbey were known as Saint Vincent and Sainte Croix respectively in the 6th century. Childebert, the Merovingian King, built the abbey of Saint Vincent for it to be a shrine to house relics of the Saint and a jewel encrusted cross that was said to have been made for King Solomon. Germain, the Bishop of Paris, encouraged the King to build a much larger church. After Germain’s death, he was canonized St. Germain of Auxerre. It was also the burial place for the Merovingian kings up to 639. After that period, French Kings were buried at the basilica of St. Denis up until the French Revolution. After 200 years had passed from the death of Saint Germain the church was renamed in his honour.

Visitor information
St Germain des Pres Hours of Operation:
Mon-Sat 8am-7:45pm
Sun 9am-8pm
Admission Fee for St-Germain-des-Pres:
Free admission
Getting to the St-Germain-des-Pres:
By metro;
St-Germain-des-Prés (M4)

Here is a very pleasant St –Germain-des-Pres Walk

A pleasant circular walk in St-Germain-des-Pres, along attractive, narrow streets among shops and art galleries, historical cafes and literary and other landmarks. This is one of the most popular parts of Paris, and you will enjoy sitting at the terrace of Les Deux Magots or the Café Flore. As well as the Musee Delacroix there are two important churches, St-Germain-des-Pres and St-Sulpice. Also on the way is Pierre Chaeu’s extraordinary Maison du Verre.
Start and Finish: Metro Odeon; buses 58, 63, 70, 86, 87, 96.
Length: 3.5km (2 ¼ miles).
Time: 1 ¾ hr.
Refreshments: Cafes and eating-places abound.
Which day: Any day; Sunday is a little quieter, since the art galleries and antiques shops are shut.
To visit:
• Musee Delacroix: daily (not Tuesday) 09.45-12.30 and 14.00-17.15.

Porte Buci

Leave the metro via the Carrefour de l’ Odeon exit onto Boulevard St-Germain, opened by Georges Haussmann (1809-1891).Cross the boulevard to Cour du Commerce-St-Andre, a cobbled alleyway with gates. Now only half as long as it was before the creation of the boulevard, the cour ran along Philippe-August’s wall, and until the 17th century was place for boules-players. Most of the houses were built in the 1770s. Jean Paul Marat (1743-1793) had the print-shop for his newspaper L’ Ami du people at no 8. At no 9 Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814) conducted the first trials (using sheep) of his new head-cutting machine in 1972. On the right is Cour de Rohan, with three very picturesque courtyards: one was established over the Phillipe-Auguste wall and another contains a fine 17th century hotel and a stone mounting-block. Much of Cour du commerce-St-Andre is occupied by the (renovated) Café Procope, one of the great literary cafés of the 18th century, favoured by the Encyclopedistes and the first establishment in Paris where you could drink coffee.

Reach Rue St-Andre-des-Arts and turn left. The crossroads you almost immediately come to, Carrefour de Buci, has always been an important landmark in Parisian life. Two of the fortified wall’s gates were nearby. At Carrefour is the five story Montholon apartments block, dating from 1770’s and a kind of prototype for future generation of the apartment blocks in the city: Classical domestic architecture, with an arcaded ground floor and above it four almost equal square floors.

Turn left into Rue de l’ Ancienne-Comedie, named for the Comedie-Francais, which was at 14 in the ancient Jeu de Paume-de-l’ Etoile. Passing the Café Procope on your left, return to Boulevard St- Germain and turn right. This portion of the Boulevard, between the Odeon and St-Germain-des-Pres, contains several fashion shops and cafes, including the ever-popular Rhumerie, and you might want to come back later to explore it. The cafes stay open late in the evenings, and there are restaurants of all kinds in the side-streets.

The abbey palace

Take the first right into Rue Gregoire-de-Tours. At the bottom is Carrefour de Busi again; this time turn left into the busy Rue de Busi, with its very lively, good patissiers and other food stores. Cross Rue de seine and go slightly to the right into the short rue de Bourbon-le-Chateau, where there are late-a8th-century houses.

You are now in a warren of small narrow streets opened to the old grounds of the Abbaye St-Germain-des-Pres. The peaceful abbey, a stone’s throw from the university, ruled over this area for centuries. It was really a state within the state, with its own laws and judicial system, its own prison and the right to levy taxes, and it was under the direct authority of the Pope rather than the Bishop of Paris. As it was outside the city wall it had its own fortified wall and gates. The original 6th-century building was a reputedly superb Merovingian Basilica. Germain (c496-c5760, then Bishop of Paris and later a saint, had asked Childebert I of the Francs (reigned 511-558) to build a church to house St Vincent’s cloak, which the king had retrieved from Saragossa. So rich was the basilica that it proved tempting rather too often, and eventually it was destroyed during the Norman invasions of the 9th century. Rebuilt 00 years later, it slowly grew to become one of the richest Parisian abbeys; Pierre de Montreuil (d1267) was responsible for several further buildings. During the Revolution the abbey as used as a gunpowder store. One day in august 1794 there was a terrific explosion and moist of the building went up in smoke.

Cross Rue de l’ Echaude, originally a track that ran along the abbey wall, and reach Rue de l’ Abbaye, opened in 1800 after the destruction of the abbey. The large red brick-and stone building on your left (at no’s 3, 5 7) is what is left of the 16th century abbey palace built by then abbot, Cardinal de Bourbon (1523-1590), Henri IV’s uncle; the abbeys high revenues attracted many influential people to the post of abbot. The palace was sold in 1797, was an artist colony for a while, and is now a medical centre. Go up a few steps to the gates and peep in.

Behind you is Rue de Furstenberg, leading to one of the most delightful squares in Paris: small and with an odd provincial charm. The left-hand side to be the stable, etc. of the abbey palace.

At no 6, in the corner, Eugne Delacroix (1798-1863) had his studio, now a museum and very evocative of the life of one of the greatest artists of the 19th century. The apartment where he lived from 1856 has not been changed, and there is always an interesting selection of painting (some on loan from the Louvre).

Leaving the museum, walk down rue de Furstenberg-note the narrow crescent-shaped rue Cardinale on your right-and turn left into the classy Rue Jacob; this section is renowned for its antiques shops. There are many fine houses hidden away in the courtyards; you must push doors to appreciate fully the character of the area. Richard Wagner (1873-1954), lived at no 20. Jean Racine (1639-1699) lodged in his uncle’s fine hotel at no 7.

At the traffic lights, go left into Rue Bonaparte-where August Comte (1798-1857), the founder of Positivism, lived at no 36- along to Place St-Germain-des-Pres, the centre of late-1940s and early-1950s nightlife and a kind of a big club for the Extentialists and others such Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), Juliette Greco (b 1927), Raymond Queneau 91903-1976), Jean-Paul Sartre 91905-1980) and Boris Vian (1920-1959). Most of the cafes, bars, and clubs, like famous Tabou, were in nearby streets such as Rue St-Benoit and Rue Dauphine.

Eglise St-Germain-de-Pres

The palace was created in 1886, in the Second Empire, on the site of the old church square. In the small garden at the side of the church is a bust by Pablo Icasso (1881-1973) of the write Guillaume Apolinaire (1880-1918). Facing the church is the interesting jewellery shop Arthus Bertrand, with a fine façade, and next to it is the most elegant of Parisisan cafes. Les eux Magots. The church itself is about 65m (71yd) long and is a mixture of styles: the main body is Romanesque but the chapel is Gothic; the façade is 17th century, the bell tower belongs to the original 11th- century church, and the choir and ambulatory are 12th-century, the latter was restored in the 1950’s and is stunning; it opens onto nine chapels. Most of the decoration, including the nave frescoes by Jean Hyppolite Flandrin (1809-1864), is the 19th century.

On leaving the church, go left top Boulevard St-Germain and trun right. Next to Les Deux Magots is the other temple of St-Germain life, the Café Flore, and on the other side is the great Brasserie Lipp, with its fin-de-siecle décor. Stay on the right hand-hand other side, where there are a few art galleries. Further along, the small garden on the right Square Tarass- chevtchenko- back onto Ukranian Byzantine Catholic church of St-Vladimir-le-Grand (c956-1015); the entrance is in rue des St-Peres. The church which has a fine iconostasis was built by Robert de Cotte (1956-1735) in the 1730’s, being then known as the Chapelle St-Pierre.

Cross the boulevard at the next set of traffic lights and go left along Rue St-Guillaume, now split in half. The institute des Sciences polotiques is at no 27, but the real focus of interest is no 31, where there is spectacular little house in the courtyard: the Maison du Verre, built by Pierre Chareau (1883-1959). One entire wall is made of glass and metal, and the whole is typical of what modernism was trying to achieve in the 1930’s. The house can be visited by appointment.

Turn left at the end into Rue de Grenelle-antiques and fashion shops and, at no 25, the Hotel de Benulle- and left again into Rue des Sts-Peres. The most interesting hotels in this agreeably quaint street are de Meilleraie de Cavoie (nos 56 and 52), both of which were built in 1640.

Reaching boulevard St-Germain again, turn right; note the fine windows of the sonya Rykiel shop-no’s 175, 173 and 169 date from the 18th century; Victor Hugo 91802- 1885) lived at no 30 in 18th- century.

Reach Carrefour de la Croix-Rouge, so nmed since the 15th century. The massive metal statue on your right, near Rue du Cherche-Midi, is by Cesar (b1921). Cross Rue du Four into rue du Vieux-Colombier, where you can see one of the spires of Eglise St-Sulpice. Go along the street, cross Rue de Rennes and reach Place St-Sulpice, now dominated by the church.


Place St-Supice was designed in the second half of the 18th century by the Florentine architect Giovanni Servadoni (1695-1766); it was completed in 1883, and the handsome fountain by Lodovico Visconti (1791-1853), with sculptures of four famous preachers-Jean Baptiste Massillon 91663-1742), Francois Fenelon (1651-1715), Esprit Flechier (1632-1710) and Jacques Bossuet (1627-1704)- was installed in 1844. Until recently almost every shop on the northern side of this place was a religious shop, selling clerical wear, etc.

The church itself has a long history. It was essentially the work of Louis Le Vau (1612-1670), and work did not resume until 40 years later, when the nave, the roof and the façade 9Servadoni) were completed. However, there was a problem about the towers. Servadoni’s plan was rejected, and architect called MacLaurin was given the job, but two towers he built were not liked. Jean francois Chalgrin (1739-1811), then an up-and- coming architect, tendered a new plan, which was accepted: in 1777-88 the northern tower (on the right) was demolished and a new one erected. But then came the Revolution, and Chalgrin never had the opportunity to replace the south tower. The church has two towers of different heights and shapes: one is round, the other square.

St-Sulpice is enormous-at 110m (360ft) long it is among the largest churches on Paris. The majestic interior cannot fail to impress. The organ (1781) is by Francois Henri Cliquuot (1732-1790) with a case by Chalgrin. A little marvel is the Chapelle des Sts-Anges (first in the rright as you come in), with superb frescoes by Delacroix. Most of the decoration is bty other 19th century rtists. There are eight chapels on either side, plus the larger Chapelle de l’ Assomption beyond the choir and the ambulatory, and beyond that the smaller Chapelle de la Vierge, containing another artistic treasure, a superb sculptor of the Virgin by Jean Baptiste Pigalle (1714-1785).

Leave the church by southern exit (on the right just before the chancel) and find yourse4lf in Rue Palatine. Facing you is Rue Sevadoni, a pleasant medieval street with mostly 17th0and 18th-centry houses. At the top, on the other side of the railing s in Rue de Vaugirard, pass Rue Garanciere and , just opposite the entrance to the palais, turn left into the handsome rue de Tournon.

This street, opened in the early 16th century on land belonging to the Abbaye St-Germain-des-Pres, contain many houses .There is a good façade at no 29. The poet Clement Marot (c1497-15440 lived in a house t no 27(plaque); Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) lived for a time in the present no 27. The Scottish-born hero of the USS War of independence, Paul Jones 91747-1792), lived and die and no 19. The fine hotel de Brancas, at no 6, now houses the Institut Francais d’ Architecture. Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-18969) lived in the 17th century Hotel de Palaiseay at no 4. Alphonse Daudet (1840- 1897) and Leon Gambette (1838-1882) both lived at no 7. Finally, the superb early 17th century Hotel de Chatillon, where Honore de Balzac (1799-1850) lived for three years, is at no 2.

The Marche St-Germain

At the end of Rue de Tournon, cross Rue St-Sulpice into Reu de Seine and turn immediately left in to Rue Lobineau, which leads to Marche St-Germain, now renovated and containing boutiques on the ground floor and the small auditorium upstairs. Only a few arches are left to the original market, built in 1813-18 on the remains of the ancients St-Germain Fair, which had been there since the late 15th-century.

At the end of the street turn right into Rue Mabillon and then first left into Rue Guisarde- where there are restaurants of varying caliber- and right into Rue Princesse. Both the latter streets were opens in the 17th century, and most private of Parisian clubs, Castel, is in Rue Princesse .Turn right into Rue du Four and right again at the boulevard; along a little way is Odeon metro station where this walk ends.

You can connect this walk with the previous walk, which will ate you to the continue eastward, pass Rue Danton, take the second turning left into Rue Hautefeuille, and cross Place St-Andre des-Arts to Place St-Michel.

Beaubourg and Chatelet

A pleasant walk in the Musee National d’ Art Moderne (Centre Georges-Pompidou) has highlight. The museum is in Beauboug, one of the oldest parts in Paris. The medieval village of Beau Bourg became part of the city when Philippe-Auguste built his wall. The village was not known for the social quality of its inhabitants: brigands, cutpurses and prostitute frequented the area until 1970’s, when the museum was opened and the area was clean up. The walk from the vestiges of the medieval monastery of St-Martin-des-Champs via ancient streets, one of the few medieval houses still extant in Paris, several fine 17th-and 18th-century hotels, the churches of St-Merri and St-Gervais, the hotel de ville (town hall) and Palace du Chatelet, on the river.

Start: Metro Arts-et-Metiers; buses 20, 75.
Finish: Metro Chatelet; buses 38, 47, 72, 75, 76, 81.
Length: 5.5km (31/2miles).
Time: 1 ½ hr.
Refreshments: Trendy bars around the museum as well as some old-fashioned and interesting restaurants, the better ones being at the end of the walk. The cafeteria at the top of the Pompidou Centre offers ravishing views.
Which day: Any day except Tuesday; though always rather full, the museum gets quieter in the late afternoon and early evening.
To visit:
• Musee National d’Art Moderne: daily (not Tuesday). Currently closed for renovation, re-opening in 2000. Call to check the status.