Intérieur de l’Abbaye de Saint-Germain des Près
St-Germain-des-Prés is the oldest church in Paris. Parts of it date to the 6th century, when a Benedictine abbey was founded on the site by Childebert, son of Clovis.
The church was originally founded by Childebert to house a relic of the True Cross brought from Spain in 542. In the Middle Ages, the Church of St-Germain-des-Pres was so powerful, both religiously and culturally, that it became like a town within the town.
Unfortunately, the Normans all but destroyed the abbey at least four times, and only the marble columns in the triforium remain from the original structure. The carved capitals on the pillars are copies of the originals, which are kept in the Musée National du Moyen-Age.
The church was enlarged and reconsecrated by Pope Alexander III in 1163. The abbey was completely destroyed during the Revolution, but the church was spared.
The present building, incorporating repairs and enlargements from various eras, is a fine example of Romanesque architecture. The Romanesque square tower, dating from the early 11th century, is topped by the church’s landmark spire, which dates to the 19th century.
Inside, the church consists of a Romanesque nave and a Gothic choir with gilded capitals. The marble columns of the triforium are the only survivors of the 6th-century abbey church.
For a time, the abbey was a pantheon for Merovingian kings. Many of them were buried in the Chapelle de St-Symphorien, which was restored in 1981. Among the others interred here are Descartes (just his heart; the rest is in the Pantheon) and Jean-Casimir, the king of Poland who abdicated his throne.
The colorful 19th-century frescoes in the nave are by Hippolyte Flandrin, a pupil of the classical master Ingres. Romanesque paintings were discovered on the triumphal arch in the 1981 restorations.