Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Abbey of
SAINT-GERMAIN-DES-PRÉS, ABBEY OF
Saint-Germain-Des-Prés is the former benedictine abbey in Paris, France. The monastery was founded by King Childebert I (c. 543) with St. Droctoveus from Autun, under the Basilian Rule. It was originally dedicated to the Holy Cross, St. Vincent (whose relics were brought from Spain by Childebert), and St. Symphori-anus. Childebert I, Chilperic, and their families were buried there, as was St. germain, early bishop of Paris (d.576), who gave his name to the monastery's new church when his reliquary was exalted (754) by the first Carolingian monarch pepin iii. The carolingian renaissance was a magnificent period for the abbey: by 815 there were 212 monks living there under the benedictine rule (adopted before the end of the 7th century). Their intensive literary activity resulted in the Polypticus (of Abbot Irmino), several annals, their famous obituary, the martyrology of usuard, the Liber miraculorum, and the later De bellis Parisiacae urbis by Abbo. The abbey's estate was immense. But decay came quickly: the normans burned the buildings, and the dukes of Paris became secular abbots retaining only a small mensa (income) for the few monks; many of the abbey's villae were alienated. The Capetians and a regular abbot, william of saint–bÉnigne of dijon (c. 1025), sparked a revival. The estate was partly recovered; the burgus S. Germani (1159) outside the walls of Paris was organized according to municipal law and grew rich through its periodic fairs. In 1107 the abbey was placed sub tutela sancti Petri with episcopal exemption and with local jurisdiction. A new Romanesque church, which is still partially standing, was built, and Pope Alexander III consecrated it (1163). The scriptorium produced fine illuminated manuscripts such as the Commentary on Leviticus (Paris, Bib. Nat. Lat.11564); historical works such as the Historia regum Francorum ab origine gentis ad annum 1214 were written. Saint-Germain, like most religious houses, underwent a great spiritual and temporal decline in the later Middle Ages. The abbey was reformed according to the statutes of chezal-benoÎt in 1514 but, practically speaking, found a new life only with the maurists (1630). Saint-Germain became the seat of the superior general and the center of Maurist studies. Thus, the revival was not only spiritual (despite some jansenism) but intellectual. mabillon, E. Martène, U. Durand, ruinart, among others, worked there. The monastery was suppressed in the French Revolution. The superior general and 40 monks were massacred in the abbey with many other bishops and priests (Sept. 2, 1792), some of whom are now beatified as martyrs.
Bibliography: Gallia Christiana, v. 1–13 (Paris 1715–85), v. 14–16 (Paris 1856–65) 7:416–490. l. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 2:2207–11. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 1907–53) 6.1:1102–50. p. schmitz, Histoire de l'Ordre de Saint-Benoît, 7 v. (Maredsous, Bel. 1942–56). f. lehoux, Le Bourg Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Paris 1951). f. ribadeau dumas, Histoire de St-Germain-des-Prés (Paris 1958).