The Oldest Church in Paris Still Stands After 1500 Years

Written by Patrick MacFarland
Published: December 1, 2023
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Centers of religion — a temple, a mosque, a synagogue, a church — have been around since the inception of religion and have provided people with a place to worship. Some religious centers have been around for several years, but others have stood the test of time.

Let’s go back in time and explore the oldest church in Paris. It still stands after 1,500 years. We’ll go through its history, major events that happened there, the wildlife in the area, and other fun facts.

Where Is the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés Located?

Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres

The church’s grounds are where Childebert is buried, as well as other Frank rulers.

©elxeneize/iStock via Getty Images

The Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is located in Paris, which is France’s capital. The church is within the 6th arrondissement of the city in an area called the Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The church is owned by France and the State allows the Catholic Church to use it, just like Notre Dame. The most recent renovations happened in 2021 and 2022.

When Was it Built?

The church was built as a Benedictine abbey around 543 by Childebert I, who was the son of Clovis, King of the Franks. However, the Vikings came in afterward and destroyed the church. In the 8th century, the church was rebuilt and called Saint-Germain, who was a Bishop in Paris at the time. The church was again rebuilt in the 11th century in the Gothic style of architecture, which was quite popular at the time.

Major Events At Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Saint Germain Des Pres

Saint-Germain-des-Prés was burned six times and rebuilt each time afterward.

©hsinli wang/iStock via Getty Images

Let’s take a look at some major events that happened at the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. After all, it has been around for more than a thousand years!

  • The abbey donated land surrounding it to build the University of Paris.
  • The abbey was badly damaged during the French Revolution, which was rebuilt decades after it.
  • After the French Revolution, the land where the abbey was on and its surroundings were confiscated. New buildings and streets were built which created the Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
  • Historical excavations took place after the revolution where Alexandre Lenoir discovered several tombs under the main altar. They were moved to the Cluny Museum.
  • The abbey had a prison on its grounds, which is where the 1792 September massacre took place. The prison was destroyed and that’s where Boulevard Saint-Germain is today.
  • Several notable people are buried here including French philosopher René Descartes, French poet Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, and Louis César de Bourbon, Count of Vexin.

Wildlife Around the Area

Building exterior, Photo image a Beautiful panoramic view of Paris Metropolitan City

Saint-Germain-des-Prés is located near two famous cafés that were frequented by writers and artists, like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce — Cafe de Flores and Les Deux Magots.

©underworld111/iStock via Getty Images

Paris is home to an abundance of parks, including two large parks that are just outside the city on the eastern and western sides. The Bois de Boulogne is on the western side, close to La Defense. Bois de Vincennes is on the eastern side, close to the Paris Zoo.

In both parks, you can find squirrels, rabbits, reptiles, insects, and several types of rodents. If you want to see more exotic animals, you can head to the Paris Zoo, of course. There are also regional parks outside of Paris but within the Île-de-France region.

You can go to several regional parks, including the Vexin Français Regional Park, located northwest of Paris. It’s about seven times the size of the city. You can check out Versailles and the Hate Vallée de Chevreuse Regional Park, located south of Versailles. Many forest animals make their home in both regional parks.

Conclusion

And there you have it, the oldest church in Paris that still stands after 1,500 years is the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The church has seen so much transpire in its long history. As you walk through the grounds, look around and think about the history of the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a church that has seen so much in the past 1,500 years.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Booblgum/iStock via Getty Images


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About the Author

Patrick Macfarland is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel, geography, and history. Patrick has been writing for more than 10 years. In the past, he has been a teacher and a political candidate. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from SDSU and a Master's Degree in European Union Studies from CIFE. From San Diego, California, Patrick loves to travel and try new recipes to cook.

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