The former parish of the French kings, St-Germain l’Auxerrois is regarded as the Church of the Louvre. Erected in the 7th century, it was expanded and rebuilt many times, which resulted in a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance features, with a dominant Gothic air. In August 1572, the tower bell launched the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.
Damaged or destroyed during the Norman wars, the French Revolution, the July Monarchy, and bearing the taint of the blood of slaughtered Huguenots, St-Germain l’Auxerrois is inscribed with the turbulent history of France. At the same time, its form reflects the constant restoring and the beauty that can result from braving the adversities of life.
The first church on the site was erected in the 7th century by Merovingian foundation, but it was destroyed during the great Norman siege of Paris between 885 and 886. It was rebuilt in the 11th century and constantly altered in the following centuries, with various elements added to its main form. The reconstruction of the church was completed by 1580.
During the Wars of Religion, on the night of August 23, 1572, its bell called ‘Marie’ rang, marking the beginning of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Thousands of Protestant Huguenots, who visited the city to celebrate the marriage of Henri de Navarre to Marguerite de Valois, were slaughtered by the Catholics.
Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois underwent major renovations in the 17th and 18th century. Also in the 18th century, the choir was renovated.
During the French Revolution the church was looted and it served as a police station for a while. It regained its religious function in 1802. During the February riots of 1831, Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois was desecrated and closed again. It hadn’t reopened until 1837. The following renovations included the erection of the north tower.
Following its many reconstructions, St-Germain l’Auxerrois gained its present shape in the 19th century. The somewhat eclectic structure combines Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Gothic Revival characteristics. The furnishings include intricately carved pews and a Flemish altarpiece. Some of the 16th-century stained glass windows have remained.
Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois is oriented and retains the shape of a basilica. The oldest part of the church is the 12th century, Romanesque bell tower, altered in the Gothic Revival style in the 19th century.
The building has retained parts of the Renaissance, 16th-century stained glass windows, as well as many of its historical furnishings. Most notable of these are the intricately carved church-wardens’ pews, which are supposedly based on 17th-century Le Brun designs, and the 16th-century Flemish altarpiece, as well as some beautiful statues.