Evidence exists of an ancient monastery on the site of San Servando castle, possibly founded in the 7th century. In 1080, Cardinal Richard of St. Victor, a monk of the ancient Abbey of St. Victor in Marseille, was sent as the legate of Pope Gregory VII to the Council of Burgos held that year. One of his mandates was to ensure the adoption of the Roman Rite, replacing the ancient Mozarabic Rite used by the Christians of Iberia for centuries. He carried specific instructions for the restoration of San Servando and its adoption of Roman liturgical practice.
After surviving for several centuries under Muslim rule, when the city was conquered by the Christian army of King Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085, both he and his wife, Constance of Burgundy, became generous benefactors of the basilica and rebuilt the monastery.
On 11 March 1088, the king offered the monastery to the Holy See on the condition that it be permanently administered by the Abbey of St. Victor, along with all its goods and benefits. This arrangement was approved by Pope Urban II, who was elected the day after the documents for the donation were drawn up, on 20 February 1089. He entrusted the task to Cardinal Richard, by then himself Abbot of St. Victor. After that point, the monastery came under the authority of the Abbey of St. Victor and French monks began to occupy the Spanish monastery, introducing the Rule of St. Benedict.
King Alfonso saw the monastery as a bulwark of Christian presence in the region, and on 13 February 1099, made a donation of the Church of Santa María de Alficén, and of the community surrounding it, which was a traditional Mozarabic territory. He gave the monastery the objective of maintaining this identity among the populace. He further founded a monastery of Benedictine nuns to be attached to the church. Both monastic communities were charged with providing care and hospitality to the poor of the region and to travelers.
The monastery was destroyed by Saracen attacks in 1110, and the monks returned to Marseille. It was at this point that the Monastery of San Servando entered a new phase of its existence, as it became the possession of the Archbishop of Toledo and the cathedral chapter.
King Alfonso VIII gave the monastery to the Knights Templar, who converted the monastery into a fortress in order to protect the Puente de Alcántara against a possible Muslim attack. With the disappearance of the Muslim threat and the dissolution of the Templars in 1312, the fortress lost its importance and was neglected. Today tours of the castle are conducted about the alleged haunting of the site by a miscreant knight, Don Nuño Alvear, who supposedly died after being shown his many victims in a vision.
San Servando is currently used as a youth hostel.References:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.
According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.
The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.
The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.
With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.