Saint-Martin-des-Champs Priory

Paris, France

The Priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs was an influential monastery established in what is now the city of Paris. Its surviving buildings are considered treasures of Medieval architecture in the city.

The oldest known structure on the site was a chapel dedicated to St. Martin of Tours, founded during the Merovingian dynasty, which appears in a text of 710. At a date which remains unknown, a community of monks became established there around the chapel. The abbey they founded was pillaged and destroyed by Norman invaders during the late 10th century.

In 1060, King Henry I of France chose to rebuild the complex of the former abbey, intending it then to be a priory of canons regular. At that era, it still remained outside the walls of the city, thus its designation as des champs (in the fields). In 1079 the priory was given to St. Hugh of Cluny and became a Benedictine community, which developed into one of the major houses of the Congregation of Cluny, The priory soon gained major landholdings throughout the region, becoming second in importance only to the Royal Abbey of St-Denis.

The priory church was completed in 1135, having a choir section with a double ambulatory, topped by a simple ribbed arch. The nave was completed during the 13th century, as was the refectory of the priory. The later two are attributed to Pierre de Montreuil. These are the only surviving portions of the monastic complex today.

The priory maintained a major presence in the religious and social life of Paris. It became the site of the last officially sanctioned trial by combat in France in 1386, when both the king and the Parliament of Paris authorized such a contest between the knights Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, when the former charged the latter with raping his wife.

Over time, the priory fell subject to the system of commendatory abbots and became the property of a number of titular priors. The famous Cardinal Richelieu can be counted among their number.

The priory was suppressed in 1790 under the new laws of the French Revolution, and the buildings were used as a prison. The monastic walls and dormitories was soon torn down.

The surviving structures of the priory became the home of the Museum of Arts and Crafts, which opened there in 1802. The original Foucault Pendulum was housed there from 1855 until it was irreparably damaged in 2010.

References:

Comments

Your name

Website (optional)



Address

Rue Réaumur 60, Paris, France
See all sites in Paris

Details

Founded: 1135
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

User Reviews

Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Eketorp Fort

Eketorp is an Iron Age fort in southeastern Öland, which was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in the Middle Ages. Throughout the ages the fortification has served a variety of somewhat differing uses: from defensive ringfort, to medieval safe haven and thence a cavalry garrison. In the 20th century it was further reconstructed to become a heavily visited tourist site and a location for re-enactment of medieval battles. Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding a total of over 24,000 individual artifacts. The entirety of southern Öland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle.

The indigenous peoples of the Iron Age constructed the original fortification about 400 AD, a period known to have engendered contact between Öland natives with Romans and other Europeans. The ringfort in that era is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies and also a place of refuge for the local agricultural community when an outside enemy appeared. The circular design was believed to be chosen because the terrain is so level that attack from any side was equally likely. The original diameter of this circular stone fortification was about 57 metres. In the next century the stone was moved outward to construct a new circular structure of about 80 metres in diameter. At this juncture there were known to be about fifty individual cells or small structures within the fort as a whole. Some of these cells were in the center of the fortified ring, and some were actually built into the wall itself.

In the late 600s AD the ringfort was mysteriously abandoned, and it remained unused until the early 11th century. This 11th century work generally built upon the earlier fort, except that stone interior cells were replaced with timber structures, and a second outer defensive wall was erected.

Presently the fort is used as a tourist site for visitors to Öland to experience a medieval fortification for this region. A museum within the castle walls displays a few of the large number of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the major decade long excavation ending in 1974. Inside the fort visitors are greeted by actors in medieval costumes who assume the roles of period artisans and merchants who might have lived there nine centuries earlier. There are also re-enactment scenes of skirmishes and other dramatic events of daily life from the Middle Ages.

Eketorp lies a few kilometers west of Route 136. There is an ample unpaved parking area situated approximately two kilometers west of the paved Öland perimeter highway. There is also a gift shop on site. During peak summer visitation, there are guided tours available. Visitors are assessed an admission charge.