Since ever, Saint - Germain des Prés has been a place of
a particular charm that has always inspired artists.
Everything started in 542, when the army, leaded by Childebert,
son of the French King Clovis, besieged the Visigoths in Saragosse.
The Saint Germain des Prés starts to develop near the abbey
that Childebert build up, counseled by bishop Germain, in order
to shelter treasures of the surrendered Vandals, such as Saint Vincentss
tunic. This church and its monastery becomes rapidly the richest
one in France and after the death of bishop Germain, its name is
changed into Saint Germin des Prés.
The suburb continues to develop and becomes in the 17th century
a center of literature and theater life. Artists meet in the cafés,
already flourishing, such as Procope that opens in 1689 at the moment
of the Saint Germain trade. Curiously and contrary to all the customs,
it becomes the place where artists and clerics cohabit peacefully.
The Revolution in 1789 sounds the death knell for the powerful
Benedictine abbey, successively destroyed by an explosion and by
a fire. Still, the Saint Germain des Prés area continues
its intellectual and artistic blossom, especially in the 19th century.
Artists settle there, be it painters like Delacroix, Ingres and
Manet, writers like Racine, Balzac and Georges Sand or actors like
Mounet-Sully. The place becomes a meeting point of numerous intellectuals
and artists who enjoy discussing about culture and actuality.
In the20th century, the Saint Germain des Prés continues
to be synonymous with literary and artistic life, with its numerous
cafés that have created their own circles and even their
own literature price. "Les Deux Magots" café sets
up the Saint Germian des Prés Price whose first winner is
Raymond Queneau for its book "Le Chiendent". In his essay
" Le piéton parisien"
( "the Parisian pedestrian") Léon-Paul Fargue
says of the three most important cafés ( Le Flore, Les Deux
Magots et Le Lipp) that they are " real institutions, as famous
as state institutions".
During the Second World War, while Parisians are subject to restrictions
and curfew, those cafés are the last place of free exchange
of opinions. Every day Jean Paul Sartre et Simone de Beauvoir
arrive early in the morning in one of the cafés in order
to get the best seat, near the stove.
After the war, the avant - garde theater grows. At the Babylone
Theater are played "En attendant Godot" de Samuel Beckett
in 1953 and "Amédée ou comment sen débarasser"
de Ionesco. In 1956, Cocteaus "La machine à écrire"
is given at the Odeon Theater and "Rhinocéros"
at the Récamier Theater in 1960.
Paintors and photographs are also attracted by Saint Germain des
Prés: in 1937, Picasso finishes "Guernica" in his
atelier in rue des Saints Augustins, where his friend Man Ray often
comes to visit him.
Musicians are there too: Léo Ferré sings at La Fontaine
des Quatre Saisons, and musicians such as Georges Brassens, Jacques
Brel, Charles Trénet, Guy Béart, Charles Aznavour
and Serge Gainsbourg whether live in the area or are its regular
They all enjoy meeting at the cafés in the daytime and in
the night in the famous cellars, such as " Le Bar Vert"
or " Le Tabou" that caused such a scandal. In these cellars,
artists listen to the New Orleans Jazz and the Be Bop, brought to
the Club Saint Germain or to the Blue Note by Sidney Bechet, Miles
Davis and Duke Ellington. Juliette Gréco and Anne- Marie
Cazalis are the queens of those nights and launch the existentialist
stream. By declaring itself "existentialist", the Saint
Germain youth misinterprets Sartres philosophy and presenting
his thought just as a scandalous trend annoys him considerably.
The history of Saint Germain des Prés is an illustration
of a particular bond between this area and the cultural and artistic
life of Paris. That is why it is essential to preserve the spirit
of this place, lesprit du lieu, in order to save our cultural