Karla News

The Church of St-Germain L’Auxerrois, Paris

Gothic Architecture, Louis Xiv, Louvre, The Louvre

St-Germain l’Auxerrois is a gothic jewel in the heart of Paris that seems practically forgotten by tourists. Its dark and solemn interior make it a perfect place to escape the heat and crowds of a Parisian summer, or to take a break between museums. This church was once the Chapel of the Louvre, when that monstrous building served as the royal palace.

Later parishioners included artists living at the Louvre at the behest of Kings and later became a motif used in the impressionist movement by artists such as Monet. Seventeenth- century humorist, playwright and royal entertainer Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (better known as Moliere) married 19-year-old actress Armande Bejart here in 1662. Their 21 year age difference was further compounded by the fact that Armande was the either the sister, or the daughter of Moliere’s long time mistress Madeleine Bejart. However the long colorful history and beautiful architecture of the church of St-Germain l’Auxerrois will be forever marred by the events of St. Bartholomew’s day, August 24, 1572.

The St. Bartholomew’s day massacre in which thousands of French Protestants known as the Huguenots lost their lives at the hand of the Catholic nobility, began from this very spot. The bells in the church’s gothic belfry rung the death knell for over seventy thousand people across France. Those who did not renounce Protestantism (such as the future Henri IV) were put to the sword. These thoughts are always in the background as you admire the quiet and cool interior, illuminated by vibrant stained glass.

The organ, commissioned by Louis XIV is a haunting presence that looms over the nave like a wraith. This otherwise beautiful instrument was actually built for another church and was seemingly jammed in place. Silhouetted by the Rose window behind it, a visit in the afternoon fills the church in eerie shafts of light.

See also  The Castle in Ybor City

St-Germain l’Auxerrois may have been the starting point of great crimes, but its history transcends one horrible day. The church is still an active parish with a very small but loyal flock of aging Parisians. You may see them in one of the side chapels, leaving the main church to the tourists and stained-glass lovers. Churches are empty all over France, but it seems even more poignant here.

The church hangs heavy with its sins, repentant but broken from the experience. However there is always hope for sinners, expressed in the lofty gothic architecture. The soaring belfry exemplifies the Catholic belief that the lower one falls, the higher one can rise. St- Germain l’Auxerrois is much smaller than Notre Dame so is a must visit for those who want to take a closer look at medieval stained glass or another example of gargoyle art without the throngs of tourists. While most tourists stroll past with barely a snapshot, visitors to this church can linger and inspect every nook and cranny.