St. Germain in Auxerre

The view above shows the abbey of St. Germain in Auxerre seen from the cathedral tower. Over the last few years a team of researchers affiliated with the Centre nationale des recherches scientifiques has been studying the abbey. The archaeological team is led by Christian Sapin; they have been working primarily in the abbey's crypt and in its forecourt, which formerly was its nave and west entrance.  Some of the results of this effort will be discussed at the colloquium sponsored by the Centre d'Etudes Medievales, to be held at Saint-Germain, Avant-nefs et espaces d'accueil dans l'eglise, June 17-20, 1999.

In 1995, Sapin's team was concentrating on excavating the area in front of the abbey church. The nave extended over this site until it was partially demolished after the French Revolution, when the abbey buildings were transformed into a hospital. Recently the abbey's residential and service buildings have been remodeled as a museum, and Sapin's team is working toward integrating the excavated entry section of the former church into an archaeological park. The 1995 photo below looks west from the existing building toward the twelfth-century tower that was adjacent to the former porch.

The view below shows the same site as it appeared in June, 1998. A concrete cover had been installed over the excavated area. The cover was in the process of being paved with slabs indicating the location of elements that had been uncovered during the study. The new space will serve as the entry courtyard for the museum and abbey. Eventually, visitors to the abbey church will pass beneath the cover on specially prepared walkways to view the excavated sections of the nave.

In the view below you can see the abbey site from the west, with the twelfth-century tower at the right and the modern enclosing wall of the nave in the background. To find out more about the abbey church's early building history, consult Christian Sapin's book, La Bourgogne Preromane (Paris, 1986), pages 41-63. For an overview of the abbey's cultural impact, see the exhibition catalogue Abbaye Saint-Germain d'Auxerre: Intellectuels et Artistes dans l'Europe carolingienne, IXe - XIe siecles (Auxerre, 1990). In June, 1999, a colloquium will be held at the abbey to present an overview of the work that has been done there during the past decade.

The equipe that was at work in 1995 is shown below. In the doorway wearing a dark, patterned shirt stands Olivier Juffard, project surveyor, who has produced plans both for the St. Germain project and for me at the cathedral. My student assistant from Wake Forest, Janet Houchens Starmer, is seated at front left in the dark shirt.

Most of the core members of the equipe in 1998 are shown in the photo below, which was taken in the archeological base's computer room. These are the people who work throughout the year on sorting, analyzing and reporting on the various aspects of the total study. They are, from left to right, Sylvan Aumard, Samuel Riou, Stephan Buttner, Magali Orgeur, Chantal Arnaud, Fabrice Henrion and Beatrice Magdenier.

Thanks for visiting St. Germain. If you are in Auxerre, be sure to take the tour of the abbey crypt, which holds some of the earliest Christian wall paintings in France.

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