City of Paris
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Founded by Childebert I, son of Clovis, on the ruins of a Roman temple to shelter a piece of the True Cross and Tunic of Saint-Vincent, the king had brought back from Spain in 542. The first bishop, Germanus, dedicated the basilica on 23rd December 558, the very same day Childebert died!
In 754, the abbey was renamed Saint-Germain to pay tribute to the bishop, who was buried in the chancel. It became soon known as Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Saint-Germain in the Fields), as the abbey owned the meadows known as Prés-aux-Clercs, the current present Esplanade des Invalides. This new name distinguished it from Saint-Germain-le-Vieux on the Ile de la Cité. All Merovingian kings were buried in Saint-Germain-des-Prés until the 7th century, when Dagobert I founded the Abbey of Saint-Denis in the north of Paris.
The Normans destroyed the abbey and its church when they besieged Paris in 885-886. Saint-Germain-des-Prés was rebuilt between 990 and 1021, the imposing 11th century belfry being one of the oldest Romanesque towers in France. In the 13th century, the Gothic Chapelle de la Vierge was built on what is now no6- 8 Rue de l’Abbaye. The 13th century abbey cloisters, chapter and refectory – rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries – were located on the site of no11-16 Rue de l’Abbaye. The abbey was fortified during the Hundred Years War (14th century), but the crenelated wall, watchtowers and moats were pulled down in the 17th century. The church was restored in the 17th century and the 19th century. The Abbey of Saint Germain des Pres spread on both sides of the Boulevard Saint-Germain.
Transformed into an arsenal during the Revolution, the monks’ refectory was, along with the Chapelle de la Vierge and the library (most of the library was lost and the books dispersed), were destroyed by an explosion in 1794. The abbey demolished during the French Revolution. All that is left are the 18th century presbytery, converted into offices for Paris City Hall, and the 16th century Bishop Palace flanking the church at no3-7 Place Saint Germain des Pres. The Galerie Commerciale-Marché Saint-Germain was built in 1818 on the land where the abbey held the renowned Foire Saint-Germain. 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.