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Visiting the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, France: one of the city's ancient and historic church buildings

Updated on October 8, 2012
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris
Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris | Source
Plan of Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey
Plan of Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey | Source
Map location of Paris, France
Map location of Paris, France | Source

Recalling many centuries of French history

The church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is one of Paris's ancient and historic church buildings, which can claim a foundation year of 558. The former Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was dissolved at the French Revolution (1), and reestablished as a parish church in 1801, under Emperor Napoleon I.

Interestingly, prior to the Abbey's foundation in the 6th century, there had actually been a pagan, Roman temple situated on the same site.

The Abbey's founder was Childebert I (died 558), King of the Franks, who was also buried here, along with a number of other Kings (2); these kings are mainly from the Merovingian period. A former, 17th century King of Poland, Jean II Casimir Vasa, who happened to be the Abbot of the establishment, was also interred here. Buried here, also, is French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650).

The church building's existing tower is reckoned to have been built between 990 and 1014. Among the features for which the church building is noted include the occurrence of various flying buttresses.

The current organ, a Haerpfer-Ermann, was built in 1973

Some of the buildings locally which belonged to the Medieval Abbey were used by the emerging University of Paris, in the Latin Quarter (French: Quartier latin ). The former Abbey site is thus near the heart of a very historic area of Paris.

The church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is situated, appropriately enough, on Boulvevard Saint-Germain , in Paris's 6th arrondissement .

October 8, 2012


(1) ''Dissolved' seems almost too tame a word to use about this fate of the former Abbey building at the hands of the French Revolutionaries, during a fit of secularist rage. Widespread damage was sustained, royal tombs were destroyed; the prosaic use of a storeroom for gunpowder was adopted. In any case, the tension between religion and secularism has been a very strong leitmotif in French history.

(2) Eventually it became the custom for French kings to be crowned at Reims Cathedral, to the east of Paris, and to be buried at Saint-Denis Basilica, a short distance north of the City..

Also worth seeing

The outstandingly varied visitor attractions of Paris cannot be adequately summarized, but a very few of them include: the French National Assembly in the Bourbon Palace; place de la Concorde; the Madeleine church; the Arc de Triomphe ; the Eiffel Tower; Sacré-Cœur church on Montmartre, the Paris Opera and many others.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), from where car rental is available; however, visitors to Paris may wish to explore the city via its excellent public transport system. The subway stop for the church building is Saint-Germain-des-Prés Paris Métro . Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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