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Saint Germain des Prés inside

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Saint Germain des Pres


One of the oldest churches in paris

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Who is it for?

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Why you will love it?

With over 1500 years history, the magnificent church at Saint Germain des Prés is one of the most emblematic monuments of the area. Don’t miss this opportunity to go and visit one of the oldest churches in Paris. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

3 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris
Line 4 - Saint Germain des Prés

Monday : 14:30 pm - 18:45 pm
more less
Monday : 14:30 pm - 18:45 pm Tuesday :
10:30 am - 12:00 pm
14:30 pm - 18:45 pm
Wednesday :
10:30 am - 12:00 pm
14:30 pm - 18:45 pm
Thursday :
10:30 am - 12:00 pm
14:30 pm - 18:45 pm
Friday :
10:30 am - 12:00 pm
14:30 pm - 18:45 pm
Saturday : Closed Sunday : Closed

Our Insiders' Article


Situated in the heart of the Saint Germain des Prés area, the church of the same name is one of the primary symbols of the artistic and intellectual area of central Paris. Its one remaining bell tower dominates the surrounding buildings, but it is the 1500 years of history that make Saint Germain des Prés so special. The church carries the marks of the great historical ages from the Frankish King Childebert I to the present day. The church was originally located in the center of the Saint Germain des Prés Abbey, the remains of which have long since disappeared. It continues to be considered a reference point for many Parisian artists, intellectuals and politicians. 

In the Beginning

In 559, Childebert I, son of Clovis, returned from Spain with a most precious treasure – the tunic worn by Saint Vincent who had died as a martyr two centuries earlier. With the help of the Bishop of Paris, Germain d’Autun, Childebert I decided to build a basilica in honor of the Saint. This original church went on to become the resting place for the Merovingian kings for almost the next one hundred years. Germain, who became a Saint thanks to his miracles and oratory talents, was also buried in the church. Housing an important relic, the richly decorated basilica was developed into an independent abbey of Paris boasting very large grounds.

Parisianist Fun Fact:  originally named Sainte-Croix or Saint-Vincent, the abbey was known as Saint Germain la Dorée (Saint Germain the Golden) as the copper roof glistened like gold and then finally Saint Germain des Prés (Saint Germain of the meadows), to distinguish the abbey from Saint Germain le Vieux (the Old Saint Germain) on the île de la Cité.

Middle Ages

Around the year 800, the abbey was extremely prosperous and housed around a hundred monks, an unusually large number for the time. Not long after, invaders attracted by the vast amounts of treasure and the opulent decorations came and destroyed the abbey. Luckily though, the treasure had been hidden on the Ile de la Cité to keep it safe from such looting. This allowed the Abbot Morard to raze the ruins of the old church to the ground and build a completely one in the 11th Century. One of the three Roman-style bell tower from this period is still visible today. Becoming ever more powerful, the abbey grew in size with the addition of new buildings such as the Chapelle de la Vierge (the Virgin Mary’s Chapel) in 1255 by Pierre de Montereau who also built the dormitories, the cloister and the refectory for Notre Dame. Fortifications were also constructed around the abbey, despite the fact that the King Philippe Auguste had already built walls around the city.

Parisianist Fun Fact: nothing remains of these fortifications today, but they stretched from the Rue de l’Echaudé, to the Rue Jacob, Rue Saint Benoit and Rue Sainte Marguerite (which no longer exists either, as it was destroyed to make way for the Boulevard Saint Germain)

Rise and Fall

Throughout the Middle Ages, the abbey held great powers. It was able to impart justice and even had its own prison situated on the corner of the Rue de l’Echaudé and the current Boulevard Saint Germain. The fact that the abbey was exonerated from paying taxes attracted a great numbers of travelling merchants. The abbey also included an extensive library, with around 50 000 books, which attracted intellectuals and academicians from far-flung regions. Not far from the Sorbonne, the Saint Germain area was considered the intellectual center of the city. Then in 1561, the plague hit Paris with devastating effects. King Charles IX and his mother Catherine de Médicis took refuge in Saint Germain des Prés to try and hide from the lethal epidemic. However, the French Revolution led to the downfall of the abbey and, on November 13th 1789, the church was turned into a gunpowder and weapons workshop. The abbey’s prison was used to incarcerate counter-revolutionaries such as the Noblemen of the Court, journalists, the Swiss Guards and priests. Many were also massacred here.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Jean Mabillon, the inventor of diplomatics (the study of official documents and their structure) often frequented the abbey at Saint Germain des Prés.

Recent History

Only too little remains of the glorious history of the abbey at Saint Germain des Prés. An explosion in 1794 destroyed the exceptional Chappelle de la Vierge, while the buildings that made up the abbey, such as the prison, dormitories and ramparts, were destroyed to make way for Baron Haussmann’s project to rebuild Paris during the second half of the 19th Century. The church originally included three bell towers, but the two of them had to be removed due to damages sustained during French Revolution. The building was restored by the architects Godde and Baltard during the 19th Century and was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1862.

Tower, Nave and Abbey

Built between the 11th and 12th Century, the tower, the nave and the abbey are some of the oldest religious constructions in Paris, along with the Church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre, Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre situated in the 5th arrondissement and Saint Germain de Charonne in the 10th arrondissement. Inside the church, you will notice many decorative objects dating back only two centuries, as numerous items were stolen and pillaged during the French Revolution.

Parisianist Fun Fact: There are a few anomalies in the construction of the building. For example, the nave is not in line with the axis formed by the bell and the door and the choir is not in line with the nave and the arms of the transept. 


Although extremely beautiful, the Saint Germain des Prés church stands out because of its 1500 years of history. Even though only too little remains from the time of the 6th Century abbey, a visit to this intellectual an artistic hub so emblematic of the area is an absolute must-do. The worlds of Childebert I and the 21st Century could not be further apart, but the two spheres resides intertwined in this most fascinating of churches. 

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