* * * * *
The oldest church in Paris, is called the St. Germain l’Auxerrois. It is one of the quaintest specimens of architecture I ever saw. A church was founded on the spot, many centuries ago, by Childebert. It was of a circular form, and was destroyed by the Normans, in 886. A monastery was established here in 998, and the church at that time was dedicated to St. Germain l’Auxerrois. The ecclesiastics were formed into a college, to which were attached upwards of forty clergymen. It was for many years one of the most celebrated schools in France. In 1744 the college was united to that of Notre Dame, and it was considered to be the college of the royal parish.
This church passed through the terrible scenes of the revolution unscathed, and it would have been perfectly preserved until now, but for a foolish attempt of the royalists to celebrate in it the death of the duke de Berry. This occurred on the 13th of February, 1831. A great tumult arose, and the interior of the church was entirely destroyed. It was with the greatest difficulty that the furious mob was prevented from tearing it down. On the same day, the palace of the archbishop was also completely devastated. St. Germain l’Auxerrois was now closed, and remained so until 1838. It was then restored, and reopened for public worship. At one time it was one of the finest interiors in Paris, the royal painters and artists vying with each other in its adornment. It is now, however, only as a third-rate church in its decoration. It is cruciform in shape, with an octagonal termination. At one corner there is a tower which was built in 1649, and some portions of the building were erected in 1400. The western front has a finely sculptured portico, with five low, but rich Gothic arches. The three central ones are higher than the others, and crowned with a parapet The porch was built in 1431, by Jean Gossel. The other parts of the church were built before the regency of the duke of Bedford. The door-ways are splendidly sculptured, and the church has a rich and ancient appearance.
We entered at one of the little side doors, the friend who was with me remarking,
“See how the feet of centuries have worn away these solid stones.”
It was true. A path two feet deep had been worn into the stepping-stone at the entrance. It was a striking exhibition of the power of time.
The interior of this church afforded me one of the most impressive sights I ever witnessed. It had recently been painted in the Byzantine style, and the fresco paintings were as varied and beautiful as the traceries of the frost upon our autumnal woods. You can scarcely conceive the effect it had upon me, just emerged from the ever busy street. The beauty overwhelmed me.