Monday, December 8, 2014

The Church of Saint Germain des Pres Celebrates 1000 Years of History

Photo: Enchanted France
At the center of the popular neighborhood  of Saint Germain des Pres sits a church whose history goes back more than a thousand years.  In the 6th century a basilica was  built by Childeric I, son of Clovis and dedicated to the Patron Saint --Vincent.  It was built in Byzantine style and adorned of a copper roof.   Around 750 it was consecrated to  the memory of  the beloved bishop of Paris- Germain.  For many centuries, the basilica was the royal necropolis of the Merovingians kings and queens up until Dagobert was interred in the newly built Saint Denis Basilica.   In 920, Paris was devastated by yet another Viking raid and the church was completely sacked and burnt to the ground.  It took seventy years to consider rebuilding and the task was taken by Abbot Morard who oversaw the  construction  of a new abbey church  from 990 to 1014.

Over the years it grew to become  an enormous benedictine complex whose land and reach extended well beyond the southern bank of the Seine river.   Throughout the centuries the abbey was  renowned as a spiritual  as well as intellectual and artistic center and notably in the Middle Ages, monks at  the abbey excelled in the copying and illuminations of manuscripts. At the Revolution, the abbey was dissolved, many resident monks executed and the church was turned into a saltpeter storehouse which caused much damage to the walls that can still be seen today.  In the 1803, the building was restored back to the Church and in the mid 19th century, a program of restoration was undertaken by architects Godde and Baltar, the latter of the Halles Pavillons' fame who commissioned a number of frescoes and paintings.

Today the  the Church of Saint Germain des Pres sits prettily in the middle of one of the liveliest districts of Paris that attracts locals and tourists far and wide. Its belfry rises up proudly as a witness of  one thousand years of turbulent yet colorful Parisian history.  Hah, if walls could only talk!!

Cafe les Deux Magots facing the Church of Saint Germain des Pres 

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tags: Paris, Saint Germain des Pres, France

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