The present parish church of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was built in 1827. It is the fourth sanctuary built on the site since 1028. At the beginning of the 18th century, it was known as ‘Saint-Germain-de-Paris’. The church is now dedicated to St. Germain and St. Vincent, who founded the town at the beginning of the 11th century.
The Church of Saint-Germain-en-Laye
The neo-classical style of the sanctuary is emphasised by a monumental façade consisting of a triangular pediment supported by six Tuscan columns. Ramey’s sculptures of the pediment represent Religion surrounded by the four evangelists and the three theological Virtues (Faith, Hope and Love).
Above the great portal is an inscription in Latin: ‘D.O.M. sub. inv. S. Germani’ (To the good and great God, under the invocation of St. Germain). St. Germain or Germain of Paris (c. 496-576) was a bishop of Paris born near Autun, Burgundy, to noble Gallo-Roman parents. He is not to be confused with Germanus of Auxerre (Saint-Germain d’Auxerre).
The interior of the Church
The church’s interior has three naves topped by a coffered ceiling, referring to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The roof is supported by twenty-nine ionic columns and four more prominent pillars more and less rectangular. The great organ by Cliquot is suspended above the entrance, dating back to the 18th century.
The great nave is decorated with frescoes painted by Eugène Amaury-Duval in 1849.
The richly ornate pulpit was donated by Louis XIV to the parish church in 1681.
Seven chapels and a baptistery border the side aisles.
In the choir, the great central fresco depicts Christ in his glory, surrounded by angels and saints. The small organ behind the main altar was created by the famous organ builder Cavaillé-Coll.
The Chapel of King James II Stuart
The chapel of King James II Stuart (1633-1701) houses the mausoleum of the exiled English king who Louis XIV welcomed.
Following her visit to Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1855, Queen Victoria paid for the creation of the shrine. A commemorative plaque in both French and English recalls:
‘In this church is the shrine to the memory of James II, the last Stuart King of England who died in exile at the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye on September 16th 1701. The monument was erected by Her Majesty Queen Victoria’.
Useful Links about Saint-Germain-en-Laye
- Saint-Germain-en-Laye Tourist Office
- National Museum of Archeology
- Tourisme en Yvelines
- Where to stay in Saint-Germain-en-L.