Abbaye De Saint-Germain-Des-Prés

Halfway v a diriger five-year restoration, the Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés – the oldest church in paris – is emerging phoenix-like indigenous its time-worn gloom. Jennifer Ladonne investigates

No neighbourhood in parisien captures the imagination like Saint-Germain-des-Prés. In thé minds ns Parisians and visitors alike, it conjures a long history of sparring intellectuals et trailblazing authors et artists, whose wanted cafés et watering holes still la honte prominently in thé glamorous Left banque lore. Marqué the many enduring étoiles in this heady constellation is the church that gave this borough in auto 6th arrondissement its name. Année abiding visibility in auto heart de the capital, thé abbey has remained a steadfast symbol du Paris parce que le visitors from all countries, faiths et walks of life.

Vous lisez ce: Abbaye de saint-germain-des-prés



A couple of rebuildings et a fairly brief desacralisation aside, thé Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés has presided over the neighbourhood in exactly thé same spot pour more 보다 1,450 years, since the time du the first kings du France. Roi Childebert, the son du Clovis I, founded the church et monastery in 543, far enough from thé marshy banks du the le sien to stop flooding cible close sufficient to profit from the river basin’s fertile meadows (prés). First named Saint-Vincent, thé edifice was founded to loger holy relics et the tunic of heilig Vincent du Saragossa, Spain, et was headed de Bishop Germain d’Autun. After his fatality in 576, Autun to be sainted and the church rededicated to saint Germain (who was buried there, follow me with toutes les personnes the Merovingian kings, until the late 8 hours century, as soon as they were reinterred at Saint-Denis, Paris’s official royalistes necropolis).


The earliest abbey to be richly dressed in a style befitting the status oui a diriger pilgrimage stop. Adorned v tall marble columns, cornucopie paintings, mosaic brick floors and a gilded copper-clad roof the reflected thé sunlight, the abbey was additionally endowed through vast brochure of faire face à la douleur lands along auto Seine et beyond. As well as a worn cornerstone encore visible seulement inside the stunning Saint-Symphorien chapel – to the immediate right ns the church enntrance gate – and a marker pour Saint Germain’s original tomb, there are ne sont pas visible remains ns the d’origine edifice, which was looted et burned by rampaging normans towards thé end de the 10th century.


But, around thé year 1000, a nouveau basilica climbed from auto rubble in thé newly-fashionable Romanesque style. Thé well-trodden enntrance gate porch et central nave of that structurellement make up the oldest part ns the church toujours standing today. De 1150, a grand remodelling job was underway, one ns the very first to use thé Gothic saint in that arcades, three-tiered false loggias, arched windows et rounded ambulatory, toutes les personnes still visible today, as well oui three towers (only une is still standing) et elegant paris buttresses – année innovation that predated those du Notre-Dame Cathedral, whose ground-breaking took place in 1163, virtually simultaneously with the dedication de the revived Saint-Germain basilica.

By auto 1630s the abbey to be a diriger intellectual quartier général of France, along with auto nearby Sorbonne, v which it exchanged – and squabbled over – land. Thanks to donations, purchases et a host du famous resides scholars, auto abbey’s library, stocked v thousands de rare manuscripts painstakingly hand-copied over the centuries par the monks, was one du the largest and most significativement in France.

Waiting à la restoration. Photo: Jennifer Ladonne

But the Revolution would dispense with all that. Thé monks were disbanded in 1790, et physically expelled from thé monastery in 1792, tous resisters executed. Thé church and its structures were repurposed oui a refinery pour saltpetre, a diriger component du gunpowder. Predictably, in 1794 a sur le feu broke out in the factory, causing a powerful explosion that destroyed almost everything cible – miraculously – the basilica itself, which stayed desacralised until thé closure de the manufacturing facility in 1802. Si you linger conditions météorologiques a bench in the abbey jardin to thé left of the entrance, you will sit among auto few remaining fragments of thé monks’ dwellings.

Though service resumed in 1803, auto Revolution had actually taken an immense toll nous the church and, in spite of various restorations, by the 1820s parts of the edifice were in attention of collapse. Ville architects (the abbey was now thé property de the ville of Paris) declared auto church unsalvageable, while parishioners and other champions, including victor Hugo, lobbied passionately à save it. And so, approximately 1840 started a major restoration – une that would certainly last an ext than 30 years, spanning both the second Empire and the third Republic, resulting in thé church nous see today.

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Restored pillars, virgin found in parking de nombreux excavation, nearby nous Place Furstenburg. Photo: Jennifer Ladonne


Until 2016-2017, when auto restorations on the sanctuary began, visitors to auto abbey received an almost paradoxical sapin impression: auto steep, graceful uplift ns its Gothic pillars et delicate vaulting in marked contrast v its dusky, vaguely brooding interiors. A dolorous impact was created par years du water damage and grime darkening auto walls et arched stained glass windows – part dating ago 1,000 years – and obscuring auto exquisite decorative wall paintings et murals languishing from auto 1840s restoration. Much du the mystique et the dunicité identity of the abbey room thanks à these murals, most notably auto works ns Hippolyte Flandrin, a commemorated student ns Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, who studied in Rome et was deep influenced by Italian painting et fresco techniques.

Philippe Langlois, chairman du the structure in charge of fundraising. Photo: Jennifer Ladonne

In 1842, Flandrin was commissioned à create a puissant series ns murals nous historic and religious themes à la the church.

“He was referred to as ‘the new Fra Angelico’ of his time,” sûr Philippe Langlois, chairman de the Fonds du Dotation convectif le Rayonnement du l’Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés (FDD), the french foundation in charger of fundraising.

“All thé colour elle see is the original paint, perfectly maintained in a layer de encaustic wax, a techniquement reinvented from thé Renaissance.”


Using seul a soft soap, small brushes, sponges and Q-tips, auto gorgeous, saturation colours and gilding du the walls and pillars space being liberated section de section indigenous their constitue gloom to utterly dazzling effect. But if thé process is painstaking, haricot de soja is thé fundraising. While the city of Paris, still the owner ns the walls and real estate de the church, bring away much ns the glory for the project, ce contributes a only 15 per cent of the funding. Thé rest have to be raised by the church itself through appeals venir private donors.

The repair is unfolding in 6 well-documented phases that began in 2013 and will last till 2021, at a le total cost of €5.7 million. Peanuts contrasted with thé more 보다 €20 million earmarked à la the restoration ns Chartres (now in that is 10th year) and the estimated €150 million and 30 years ce will take venir spruce increase Notre-Dame Cathedral. Auto FDD, in partnership with auto American Friends for the Preservation ns Saint-Germain-des-Prés (, has actually raised half de the arme à feu through several innovative initiatives, ns which 100 per des centaines of thé proceeds aller directly into auto preservation fund. American board member David Sheppe is passionately affiliated in auto mission.

“We oui accomplished a great deal due to the fact that our project started,” hey says. “But capital is constantly in brief supply.”


Funding peut faire be lacking, marqué not good ideas jaune avid supporters. Last December, Christie’s parisien hosted année auction ns 40 contemporary artworks passant par the likes de Yves Klein, Josef Albers, jambe Hirst, Claes Oldenburg et Anish Kapoor – all donated de sympathetic galleries, collectors et the artists themselves – in i beg your pardon three de the works fetched an ext than €100,000 apiece.

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But there is still quite a way venir go. Cursed donors ns means can money their really own section de the sanctuary. But in one ns the foundation’s much more exciting initiatives, embrace a saint Germain StarTM, benefactors of more modest means can choose any kind of one de the 3,000 newly-glimmering stars nous the abbey’s splendid vaulted ceilings for a $100 donation. The étoiles will be illuminated with auto donor’s, jaune a loved one’s, name conditions météorologiques the American girlfriend website’s interactif ceiling for tous to see. Individuals from all over in thé world, lovers ns Paris et Saint-Germain peut faire find this année excellent way venir leave their own indelible mark on the neighbourhood et on Paris.

As Langlois emphasises: “This is no a Catholic foundation but année arts et cultural movement and a celebration to transmit quel we ont received venir generations venir come.”