The heart of France.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Its bell tower is the oldest in the French capital. The Delhi Walla is in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of the oldest churches of Paris.

The ancient abbey has been standing on this cobbled ground for more than fifteen centuries. It has a cross, a 14th century statue of Our Lady of Consolation, a wooden statue of Christ, 13 chapels, a couple of paintings and an organ that was installed in 1813.

According to a pamphlet I picked up inside the church, Saint-Germain-des-Prés was named after the bishop of Paris and it was one of the most important intellectual centers of Gaul before it was destroyed by the Norman invasions in the 9th century. The work to re-build the church started in 990.

Today, this stone building gives its name to the city’s 6th arrondissement and is close to some of the great modern-day landmarks of Paris. It is adjacent to La Hune, a double-storey bookshop that remains open until midnight, and is across the street from Les Deux Magots, the café patronized by Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone Beauvoir and Ernest Hemingway – the other evening in this café I spotted a woman with Hemingway’s A Movable Feast.

The left bank of the Seine is a ten-minutes-walk away from the church – the path goes through rue Bonaparte. The Louvre, the spiritual home of our artists, is on the other side of the river. The Musée d’Orsay, museum of impressionists, is also close.

In other words, being inside Saint-Germain-des-Prés is to situate oneself in the heart of the historic and contemporary France.

Stones of Paris

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