Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés

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Coordinates: 48°51′14″N2°20′04″E / 48.85389°N 2.33444°E / 48.85389; 2.33444

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The church as seen from south-west Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Pres 140131 1.jpg
The church as seen from south-west

The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (French pronunciation:  [sɛ̃ ʒɛʁmɛ̃ de pʁe] ), just beyond the outskirts of early medieval Paris, was the burial place of Merovingian kings of Neustria. At that time, the Left Bank of Paris was prone to flooding from the Seine, so much of the land could not be built upon and the Abbey stood in the middle of meadows, or prés in French, thereby explaining its appellation.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, as well as the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zurich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018. The city is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, and is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, but the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015.

Neustria western part of the kingdom of the Franks

Neustria, or Neustrasia, was the western part of the Kingdom of the Franks.

Rive Gauche part of Paris on the south bank of the Seine

La Rive Gauche is the southern bank of the river Seine in Paris. Here the river flows roughly westward, cutting the city in two: when facing downstream, the southern bank is to the left, and the northern bank is to the right.

History

Inside of Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Pres recently restored, 2012 Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Pres, 2012 (2).JPG
Inside of Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Prés recently restored, 2012

The Abbey was founded in the 6th century by the son of Clovis I, Childebert I (ruled 511558). Under royal patronage the Abbey became one of the richest in France, as demonstrated by its ninth-century polyptych; it housed an important scriptorium in the eleventh century and remained a center of intellectual life in the French Catholic church until it was disbanded during the French Revolution. An explosion of saltpetre in storage levelled the Abbey and its cloisters, but the church was spared. the statues in the portal were removed (illustration) and some destroyed, and in a fire in 1794 the library vanished in smoke. The abbey church remains as the Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of the oldest churches in Paris. [1]

Clovis I first king of the Franks (c. 466–511)

Clovis was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensuring that the kingship was passed down to his heirs. He is considered to have been the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Frankish kingdom for the next two centuries.

Childebert I Frankish King

Childebert I was a Frankish King of the Merovingian dynasty, as third of the four sons of Clovis I who shared the kingdom of the Franks upon their father's death in 511. He was one of the sons of Saint Clotilda, born at Reims. He reigned as King of Paris from 511 to 558 and Orléans from 524 to 558.

The Polyptych of Irminon, also known as the Polyptych of St Germain-des-Pres, is an inventory of properties compiled around 823 by Irminon, the abbot of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It describes the possessions of the monastery, located primarily in the Paris region, between the rivers Seine and Eure. The polyptych is renowned for its level of detail, in particular listing the names of thousands of tenants and their children.

In 542, while making war in Spain, Childebert raised his siege of Zaragoza when he heard that the inhabitants had placed themselves under the protection of the martyr Saint Vincent. In gratitude the bishop of Zaragoza presented him with the saint's stole. When Childebert returned to Paris, he caused a church to be erected to house the relic, dedicated to the Holy Cross and Saint Vincent, placed where he could see it across the fields from the royal palace on the Île de la Cité.

Zaragoza Place in Aragon, Spain

Zaragoza is the capital city of the Zaragoza province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It lies by the Ebro river and its tributaries, the Huerva and the Gállego, roughly in the center of both Aragon and the Ebro basin.

Vincent of Saragossa saint and martyr

Saint Vincent of Saragossa,, the Protomartyr of Spain, was a deacon of the Church of Saragossa. He is the patron saint of Lisbon and Valencia. His feast day is 22 January in the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion and 11 November in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. He was born at Huesca and martyred under the Emperor Diocletian around the year 304.

Stole (vestment) long narrow cloth band worn around the neck and falling from the shoulders as part of ecclesiastical dress

The stole is a liturgical vestment of various Christian denominations. It consists of a band of colored cloth, formerly usually of silk, about seven and a half to nine feet long and three to four inches wide, whose ends may be straight or may broaden out. The center of the stole is worn around the back of the neck and the two ends hang down parallel to each other in front, either attached to each other or hanging loose. The stole is almost always decorated in some way, usually with a cross or some other significant religious design. It is often decorated with contrasting galloons and fringe is usually applied to the ends of the stole following Numbers 15:38-39. A piece of white linen or lace may be stitched onto the back of the collar as a sweat guard, which can be replaced more cheaply than the stole itself.

In 558, St. Vincent's church was completed and dedicated by Germain, Bishop of Paris on 23 December, the very day that Childebert died. Close by the church a monastery was erected. Its abbots had both spiritual and temporal jurisdiction over the suburbs of Saint-Germain (lasting till about the year 1670). The church was frequently plundered and set on fire by Vikings in the ninth 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. The great wall of Paris subsequently built during the reign of Philip II of France did not encompass the abbey, leaving the residents to fend for themselves. This also had the effect of splitting the Abbey's holdings into two. A new refectory was built for the monastery by Peter of Montereau in around 1239 - he was later the architect of the Sainte-Chapelle.

Germain of Paris 6th-century Bishop of Paris

Saint Germain was the bishop of Paris and is a saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. According to an early biography, he was known as Germain d'Autun, rendered in modern times as the "Father of the Poor".

Pope Alexander III 12th-century Pope

Pope Alexander III, born Roland of Siena, was Pope from 7 September 1159 to his death in 1181.

Philip II of France King of France from 1180 to 1223

Philip II, known as Philip Augustus, was King of France from 1180 to 1223, the seventh from the House of Capet. His predecessors had been known as kings of the Franks, but from 1190 onward, Philip became the first French monarch to style himself "King of France". The son of King Louis VII and his third wife, Adela of Champagne, he was originally nicknamed Dieudonné (God-given) because he was a first son and born late in his father's life. Philip was given the epithet "Augustus" by the chronicler Rigord for having extended the crown lands of France so remarkably.

The abbey church's west end tower was pierced by a portal, completed in the twelfth century, which collapsed in 1604 and was replaced in 1606 by the present classicising portal, by Marcel Le Roy. [2] Its choir, with its apsidal east end, provides an early example of flying buttresses.

Flying buttress

The flying buttress is a specific form of buttress composed of an arch that extends from the upper portion of a wall to a pier of great mass, in order to convey to the ground the lateral forces that push a wall outwards, which are forces that arise from vaulted ceilings of stone and from wind-loading on roofs.

Limestone sculpture of Childebert, from the former refectory portal (Louvre) Louvre childebert ml93.jpg
Limestone sculpture of Childebert, from the former refectory portal (Louvre)

It gave its name to the quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Prés that developed around the abbey. This area is also part of the Latin Quarter, because the Abbey donated some of its lands along the Seine the Pré aux Clercs ("fields of the scholars") for the erection of buildings to house the University of Paris, where Latin was the lingua franca among students who arrived from all over Europe and shared no other language.

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.

Louis-César de Bourbon, son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan, was an abbot here.

In the 17th century the district of Saint-Germain was among the most desirable on the Left Bank. Marguerite de Valois pressured the abbot to donate abbey land to her, too. She built a palace on it, and set a fashionable tone for the area that lasted until the Saint-Honoré district north of the Champs-Élysées eclipsed it in the early eighteenth century. Her palace was located at the current numbers 2-10 rue de Seine. The gardens of the estate extended west to the current rue Bellechasse. [3]

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

Burials

Former configuration

At its apogee, the Abbey extended to the area now bordered to the north by the (current) rue Jacob, to the East by the rue de l'Echaudée, to the south by the south side of the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the rue Gozlin, and to the west by the rue St-Benoit. [4]

A lady chapel was build (c. 1244-7), with glazed windows including a scene showing the death of St Germain; this is currently in the collection of Winchester College. [5]

From 1275 to 1636, the pillory of the Abbey was located in the current Place d'Acadie, better known to Parisians as the Mabillon due to the eponymous Métro station located there. This square was therefore called the Place du Pilori and the current rue de Buci leading to it was called the rue du Pilori. [6]

The pillory was removed upon the rebuilding of the Abbey's prison in 1635 (a prison had stood there since the Middle Ages). It was located in what is now the Boulevard Saint-Germain, just west of the current Passage de la Petite Boucherie. In 1675 it was requisitioned for a military prison. The prison was known for its extremely poor condition, for example, in 1836, Benjamin Appert wrote : [7]

The cells are abominable and so humid that the soldiers incarcerated there, often for minor offences, must subsequently go to the Val-de-Grâce hospital to recover from their imprisonment.

The prison was the site of one of the September massacres of 1792 and was eventually destroyed to make way for the Boulevard Saint-Germain. [8]

See also

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References

  1. "Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés", Fodor's Travel
  2. Philippe Plagnieux, "Le portail du XIIe siècle de Saint-Germain-des-Prés à Paris: état de la question et nouvelles recherches" Gesta28.1 (1989, pp. 21-29) p. 22
  3. Saint-Germain-des-Prés et son faubourg, p. 203, Dominique Leborgne, Editions Parigramme, Paris 2005, ISBN   2-84096-189-X
  4. Saint-Germain-des-Prés et son faubourg, Dominique Leborgne, Éditions Parigramme, Paris 2005, ISBN   2-84096-189-X
  5. Hebron, Malcolm. "The Death of St Germain, 1240s". In Foster, Richard (ed.). 50 Treasures from Winchester College. SCALA. p. 43. ISBN   9781785512209.
  6. Saint-Germain-des-Prés et son faubourg, p. 125, Dominique Leborgne, Editions Parigramme, Paris 2005, ISBN   2-84096-189-X
  7. Benjamin Appert, Bagnes, prisons et criminels, p. 205, Guilbert, 1836, vol. I
  8. Saint-Germain-des-Prés et son faubourg, p. 62, Dominique Leborgne, Éditions Parigramme, Paris 2005, ISBN   2-84096-189-X