Set just across the Louvre, the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois is one of the oldest churches in Paris and one of the biggest gothic buildings in the French capital. Yet, it was by the narrowest of margins, but the church underwent many works and has been destroyed and then re-built many times.
We have to go back far in time to find the first historic marks of the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois: back to the Merovingian era. But physic marks of this period, the Church displays none of them since it has been entirely destroyed during the siege of Paris by the Vikings in 885.
Known as the Church of Saint-Germain-le-Rond, in the 11th century the church is rebuilt under the reign of Robert II the Pious, before falling into disrepair again and rebuilt again under the name of the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois in the 13th century. From this era, only the Roman base of the bell tower remains.
From the 14th century, the church becomes the parish of the Kings of France because of how close it is with the Louvre which was the kings’ residential palace. But it’s a grim episode that will mark the history of the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois since it’s its tocsin (this sound of the alarm supposed to inform the people of an immediate danger) that will ring out in the night from August 23 to 24, 1572, triggering the massacre of protestant civilians during the Saint-Barthelemy.
But the church was also the theater of happy events such as Molière’s wedding in 1662 or Danton’s in 1787! Note that about the Ancien Régime, the church is known to be the “parish of artists” or the “Saint-Denis of Genius and Talent”. Many artists leaving in the Louvres choose to be buried there.
Then, a complicated period arrives for the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois since, during the Terror, it becomes a fodder store, a printshop, a police station and a saltpeter factory. After being threatened a few times of being destroyed under the First and Second Empire, the church (that became a church again in 1802) finally stays and is soon the neighbor of the new city hall of Paris 1st arrondissement.
Built as an exact copy of the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois façade, the City Hall of the 1st arrondissement sees the light of the day in 1859 thanks to architect Jacques Hittorff. It’s looks so much like the church than it can be hard to differentiate them first! The neo-gothic 124.67-ft high belfry is erected in 1863 by Théodore Ballu in order to gather the two buildings.
During your tour, don’t miss the stained-glass windows some of them dating back to the 16th century; the magnificent entrance porch from the 15th century (and the only one in Paris with a flamboyant gothic style along with the Sainte-Chapelle) and the Chapelle de la Vierge.
Eglise Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois
2 Place du Louvre
75001 Paris 1
Métro Louvre - Rivoli - Pont Neuf.