The Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was founded in 558 by Childebert I, son of Clovis, in the 6th century, making it the oldest church in all of Paris! The organization is one of the oldest Benedictine abbeys in France. Its founder, King Childebert I, was inspired to build it after a visit to Spain, intending to house precious relics he had acquired during his travels. The abbey became a prominent spiritual and intellectual center, attracting numerous scholars and theologians. In the 8th century, the building was destroyed by the Vikings.

The church was rebuilt beginning in 950 initiated by the Abbey Morard. In the 11th century, the abbey underwent a transformation, embracing the Romanesque architectural style, which was prevalent during the medieval period. This style is characterized by solid, rounded arches and heavy columns.

It was further renovated in the 12th century, adopting elements of the emerging Gothic style, which introduced pointed a choir, arches, rib vaults, and flying buttresses, offering both stability and a new height to the structures.

Sadly, much of the original structure succumbed to the destructive forces of the French Revolution in the late 18th century. The abbey experienced substantial damage and desecration, with only the church surviving, albeit in a significantly altered state. Despite the loss, the church’s façade still exhibits a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic elements.

Philosopher René Descartes was buried in one of the side chapels of the church.

Today, you can explore the remnants of this venerable church and get a glimpse into the medieval period’s architectural evolution but also serves as a tranquil oasis in the bustling city, inviting people to connect with a past era marked by intellectual fervor and spiritual devotion.

Saint-Germain-des-Près Church, Paris

Located on the left bank in the 6th arrondissement, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church sits on an open square nearby to Les Deux Magots and Le Bonaparte cafés.

In fact, you may be surprised to learn that the neighborhood of Saint Germain was given its name after the Church itself.

The neighborhood brushes up against the Latin Quarter, too, and some of the University lands were donated from the abbey. Latin was the language spoken by the students who arrived from all over Europe during this time.

Saint-Germain-des-Près Church
3 Place Saint-Germain des Prés
75006 Paris, France

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