The abbey was founded in the 7th century by Saint Germer. Given to the diocese of Beauvais in 863 the monastery was rebuilt under Bishop Drogon (c1030-1058). In 1132 there was a partial translation of the relics of Saint Germer from Beauvais Cathedral under Bishop Eudes, who had been abbot of S-Germer. The abbey flourished under the successor of Abbot Eudes, Léodegaire (1133-1145) when Henry I, king of England, made an annual gift of oak trees. In the 14th and 15th centuries the vaults of the six western vaults of the nave collapsed. The vaults of the galleries also failed and the western frontispiece disappeared at some date in the late 14th century. Important restoration work took place in the 18th century including the insertion of internal buttresses in the gallery.
Begun ca. 1135
A basilica intersected by a transept terminated to the east by a short chevet with a 5 segment ambulatory ringed by five chapels. The axial chapel was replaced in the mid 13th century by a magnificent Lady Chapel.
Four-story elevation made up of arcade supported by ponderous compound piers, a gallery, a small rectangular opening as a triforium, and small clerestory. The chevet has a precarious clerestory passage. The church is rib vaulted throughout. The lost western frontispiece was clearly a west transept like that of the cathedral SS-Gervais-Protais at Soissons.
There are no documents to date the start of work but circumstantial historical evidence suggests that construction started under Abbot Léodegaire (1133-1145) and continued under Abbots Fulbert (1145-63) and Gérard I (1163-1167). The chevet was conceived systematical for rib vaulting and diagonality was built in to supports of the ambulatory. However, the existing diagonal ribs are thin in relation, suggesting that some time might have elapse in the construction of the envelope and vault. Hidden quadrant arches can be found but there are no flyers. In the 1260's a stunning lady chapel was added under a master mason who was a follower of Pierre de Montreuil (references to the Grande Chapelle de la Vierge at Saint-Germain-de-Prés).
Saint-Germer-de-Fly occupies an important role in the story of Gothic architecture. The 4-story elevation allows us to identify it was one of the oldest members of a group of distinguished churches including Tournai Cathedral, Notre-Dame of Paris, Noyon and Laon Cathedrals. In the search for the first Gothic building - if before one dates it prior to that of Saint-Denis. Quadrant arches in the gallery have formed an important part of the historiography of the flying buttress. The chevet is often used as a paradigm for the self-contained look of the pre-flying buttress exterior.
Besnard, A., L'Eglise de Saint-Germer-de-Fly et sa Collégiale, Paris, 1913.
Bideault, M., and Lautier, C., Ile-de-France gothique, Paris, 1987, 293-310
Henriet, J., "Un edifice de la premiere génération gothique, l'abbatiale de S-Germer-de-Fly," Bull mon., 143, 120-125; 134-5
-----, A l'aube de l'architecture gothique, Besançon, 2005
Pessin, M., "The Twelfth-Century Abbey Church of Saint-Germer-de-Fly," Gesta, XVII, 1978, 71.