The Carolingian Oratory of Germigny des Pres

Ethan Map Day 2
Map Credit:

From Vaux de Cernay we drove two hours south headed for Fleury Abbey in Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire. Along the route we stopped to see the beautiful church of Germigny-des-pres.

Germigny-des-Pres is one of the most important architectural monuments in France. Constructed in 806 by a Bishop at the court of Charlemagne, it is pre-Romanesque design prefiguring much of French Benedictan and Cistercian design.

Fleury Abbey nearby, which holds the relics of Saint Benedict founder of the Benedictan order, would be a noted site for all the monastic world. Along the road from Paris to Fleury, Bishop Theodulf placed this oratory which is decorated with a magnificent mosaic.

The mosaic recalls the apse at the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna.


The form of the oratory is square somewhat recalling a Greek cross the nave having been built at a later date. Below we see the vault above the ambulatory which passes around all sides of the central altar. Over the altar is a dome set atop a square plan filled with light from a single large window in each of the walls. The columns supporting walls are topped with intricate and sophisticated carved capitals which sport vegetal carvings. The play of light dances across the Visigothic arches, showing the relationship of this church to Spain, thought to be the source of the horseshoe arch.





The Oratory strongly recalls the Mausoleum of Galla Placida in Ravenna. The apsidal mosaic and the square plan and central dome are strikingly similar.


The day we were there the temperature hit the high 80’s. We stopped for lunch at a small cafe across the street at the Hotel de la Place. When we walked in I flashed back to a western movie. The proprietor was making lunch for her family who were about to gather. We asked if they could accommodate us, we were the only guests. She handed us a menu and told us she was making the special Pot-Au-Feu, “the quintessence of French family cuisine”. They would be having this for lunch and we were welcome to have it as well.

After a wait more characteristic of waiting for Mom to finish cooking than a restaurant, the lunch arrived and it was hearty and good. Her family arrived from their various occupations and the lunch soon disappeared.

Restaurant at Hotel de la Place


    • Hi Tim: I stopped by your new blog site and enjoyed it very much. I especially liked the comparison of the original architecture and the additions. I noticed the 2010 entrance is of modern construction. You pointed out the fact that thin stone characteristic of modern builders was used and the arches seem to be supported by hidden steel. The original church was built of thicker stone and RIchardson was quite ingenious in avoiding the use of buttresses by keeping his corners massive.
      I’ve seen many similar dormers in France especially southern France on which much of his architecture is based. Thanks for helping us appreciate the fine architecture of the original church!


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