Friday, July 31, 2020

The Church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois in Paris

As I noted on this day last year, most places which use the Roman Rite keep today as the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who died on July 31, 1556. But in the Middle Ages, this date was kept in France, England and some other places (although not at Rome) as the feast of St Germanus, a 5th-century bishop of the French see of Auxerre; Ignatius himself would have celebrated this feast during his years as a student in Paris, along with the earliest members of the Company. A church dedicated to St Germanus sits directly in front of the Louvre in Paris, and is currently being used as the cathedral pro tempore while Notre Dame is undergoing restoration after last year’s fire. In French it is called “Saint Germain l’Auxerrois” to distinguish it from “Saint Germain des Prés”, which is dedicated to a 6th-century bishop of Paris. It was originally founded in the 6th or 7th-century, but has been rebuilt several times, and contains a number of real artistic treasures from different periods. Here are some pictures of it which I took when I visited Paris last summer.

A fifteenth-century statue of the church’s Patron.
A retable made in Flanders in the early 16th century, which depicts the events of Our Lord’s life, focusing on the Passion; donated to the church by the Comte de Montalivet, Minister of the Interior, in 1839. See this article on French Wikipedia for closer views and explanations of the individual scenes.
The preaching pulpit in the nave, made in 1684.
The pulpit faces this group of seats made at the same time for the use of the royal family, since Saint Germain l’Auxerrois was the parish church of the royal palace, the Louvre.
The 15th-century Gothic apse, seen from the gate of the church’s very large choir. 
The south transept; the object inside the gate is not a baptismal font, but a very elaborate marble holy water stoup, added to the church in 1844.
A 19th-century fresco of the Deposition from the Cross
A statue of the deacon and martyr St Vincent, contemporary with the statue of St Germanus seen above.
A chapel with an altarpiece of Ss Augustine, Ambrose and Jerome.
Mounted on the balustrade of the choir, and facing into the ambulatory, is this retable of the life of the Virgin Mary, made ca. 1510-30.
Original Sin and the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple on the painted wing on the left.
The Expulsion from the Garden and the Annunciation on the right.
The organ and lectern of the choir
The high altar
The vault of the choir
In the ambulatory behind the choir, the Chapel of the Good Death, formerly the Blessed Sacrament chapel; completely redecorated after the church was badly damaged and profaned by rioters during a political disturbance in 1831 (plus ça change...)
A funerary chapel founded 1505 by a rich merchant named Jehan Tronson, known as the Tomb Chapel from the sculpture of the Dead Christ inside the altar.
A 19th-century neo-Gothic altar piece of the Trinity with St Germanus (right) and St Vincent de Paul (left.)
The chapel of Ss Denys, Rusticus and Eleutherius.
The pillars outside the chapel of Notre-Dame de la Bonne-Garde are covered with ex-votos.
The grand organ was originally built in the Sainte Chapelle in 1771, and removed to Saint Germain in July of 1791, in the midst of some of the worst turbulence of the Revolution; the fate of its predecessor is unknown. Although it has several parts taken from other instruments, it was originally built by the famous François-Henri Clicquot, who built or restored over 40 organs all over France between 1751 and 1790. (One of his pieces was just destroyed by the arsonist who set fire to the cathedral of Nantes.)
The main door, made in the 13th century; the Last Judgment scene in tympanum was destroyed and never restored. The archivolt is decorated with Angels and Saints; to the left of the door are statues of Queen Ultragotha and her husband King Childebert I, traditionally said to have founded the church in the year 542 (there is some debate about this as a matter of history), followed by St Vincent; on the right, St Germanus, St Genevieve, and an angel. The statue of the Virgin and Child on the trumeau is of the 19th century.

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