Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Paris, France

The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was the burial place of Merovingian kings of Neustria. The Abbey was founded in the 6th century by Childebert I, the son of Clovis I (ruled 511–558). Under royal patronage the Abbey became one of the richest in France; it housed an important scriptorium in the 11th century and remained a center of intellectual life in the French Catholic church until it was disbanded during the French Revolution.

The church was frequently plundered and set on fire by the Normans in the 9th century. It was rebuilt in 1014 and rededicated in 1163 by Pope Alexander III to Saint Germain of Paris, the canonized Bishop of Paris and Childeric"s chief counsellor. A new refectory was built for the monastery by Peter of Montereau in around 1239 - he was later the architect of the Sainte-Chapelle.

The abbey church"s west end tower was pierced by a portal, completed in the 12th century, which collapsed in 1604 and was replaced in 1606 by the present classicising portal, by Marcel Le Roy. Its choir, with its apsidal east end, provides an early example of flying buttresses. An explosion of saltpetre in storage levelled the Abbey and its cloisters, the statues in the portal were removed (illustration) and some destroyed, and in a fire in 1794 the library vanished in smoke.

Until the late 17th century, the Abbey owned most of the land in the Left Bank west of the current Boulevard Saint-Michel and had administrative autonomy in it, most clearly for the part outside the walls of Paris.

The tomb of philosopher René Descartes is located in one of the church"s side chapels.



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Founded: 1014
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)


4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Christopher Yandell (10 months ago)
Fun fact: this is considered to be the oldest church in Paris, built in the 11-12th century! Beautiful stained class, columns, paintings, and sculptures.
Nila Dhinaker (2 years ago)
Beautiful church with stained glass, confessionals, statues, and all kinds of paintings. It’s one of the oldest churches in Paris and was built in the 1100s. I particularly enjoyed the church organ — they even had an organist playing music there.
joyce .. (2 years ago)
Being the eldest church in Paris as an iconic example of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The lower portion of the western tower of the church was built around the year 1000 and the "newer" section was updated in the 12th Century. There are signs of aging in this building where funding raising is happening for restoration works. There is a Christmas market outside the church.If you have some spare cash to spend, visit the LV shop right opposite the church.
Erin McOmber (2 years ago)
My new favorite church in Paris! This was (or still is?) a Benedictine abbey and the site is one of the oldest churches in Paris—(destroyed, rebuilt, etc.). I visited upon recommendation of my Airbnb hostess, whose favorite church it is. I found the decor, the chapels, the sculptures, and the painting—the colors on the walls and ceiling—to be far superior to Sainte-Chapelle (which is under renovation for the Olympics but I am not judging SC based on its current state—I have seen in its full glory). I know this sounds like heresy because everyone adores SC but take a look at SGDP for yourselves. It was infinitely less crowded than SC and was more spacious while still feeling intimate. Be aware that if you visit during mass you must not walk around until the service is finished. I felt so peaceful there. There were parishioners praying while I visited and it felt like it was an actual place of worship and not just a historical attraction.
B Smith (2 years ago)
Wounderful historic church in the heart of St. Germain des Près. The namesake of the neighborhood. The bell tower is the oldest surviving in France and is more than 1,000 years old.
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