Paris, Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés


    Begun ca. 1145


    Nave with five wide bays opening into aisles is not quite aligned with the older western tower. The transept (southern arm rebuilt in the 17th century) projects beyond the nave. Twin towers flank the choir which was rebuilt in the 1140s and 1150s with 4 straight bays and a 5-segment hemicycle surrounded by ambulatory and radiating chapels. The choir aisles open into deep lateral chapels, divided by solid walls which form the base of flying buttresses.


    Nave with two stories: arcade supported by compound piers with a massive square core flanked by thick colonnettes which serve to provide visual support for the round arches (note the torus moldings) and to create bay divisions. Choir with a three-story elevation: cylindrical piers like S-Denis; arcade articulated with a torus (round arches in the straight bays; slightly pointed in the hemicycle); a gallery with twin openings originally grouped under relieving arches (two per bay) modified in the 17th century. Clerestory composed of double lancets. Recent scholarship has challenged the old assumption that the choir flyers were not part of the original construction.


    Founded as the church of Sainte-Croix-Saaint Vincent by King Childebert I, son of Clovis after his 542 expedition to Spain from which he brought bask a golden, gem-studded cross and a tunic of Saint Vincent. Consecrated on December 23, 558, the day of the king's death -- he was buried there with Ultragothe, his wife, as was his son, Dagobert and his family for the next three centuries The church was mentioned by Gregory of Tours and Fortunatus praised its marble columns and glazed windows. Germain, bishop of Paris left his possessions to the abbey and was buried in 576 in the crypt of the chapel of Saint Symporien to the south of the nave. After his canonization and the translation of his relics to the choir, the church was generally known at S-Germain. Burned several times by the Normans (845-866) the church was rebuilt by Abbot Morard (990-1014) with the support of King Robert . Work began with the western clocher-porche and continued with the choir and the nave; a dedication took place in 1021. A new choir, begun in the mid-12th century, was dedicated on April 21 1163. Between 1227 and 1273 the monastic buildings were reconstructed, including the famous Grande Chapelle de la Vierge, built by Master Pierre de Montreuil, who was buried there in 1267. The old wooden roof of the nave (central vessel and aisles) was replaced in 1644-6 by rib vaults. At the same time the choir clerestory was extended downwards and the relieving arches of the gallery openings were eliminated, leaving the odd horizontal sill that we still see. Further radical changes were introduced in the 18th century. The church was closed in 1793 in order to provide shelter for the manufacture of saltpeter. The monastic buildings were sold and demolished. In 1803 the church was restored to the cult; the axial chapel was built in 1819; the magnificent towers flanking the choir were demolished by the architect Godde in the 1820s.

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