Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle

The present « Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye » is mostly of a some-kind-of-16th-century-“renaissance” architecture (Francis I’s reign), replacing some previous buildings. But one little part was left - the chapel, from 1238, which slightly preceded and for a while held the relics for which the Sainte-Chapelle (see previous post) was built.  

This has always been a Royal Castle. Louis XIV was born and spent a large part of his life here, before moving to Versailles  (see here) in 1682 – at the age of 44. The ex-King of England, James II, moved then in … and family and supporters of the exiled “Stuarts” occupied the castle until the French Revolution.

Napoleon III initiated the restoration of the castle and in 1867 the “National Museum of Antiquities” could open, today renamed “National Archaeological Museum”.  (There was an interruption 1940-44, when the German Army established their French headquarters here.)

The museum proposes collections from Paleolithic to Merovingian times, passing by Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman Gaul periods, meaning more or less from the beginning of time until the 8th century. The museum houses some 3 million archaeological objects, mostly found on today’s French territory, of which “only” 30,000 are exhibited. The items are very nicely and clearly exhibited, explained, in a number of rooms on two floors… and in one of the rooms you find a more recent statue of a “Gallic Leader” (by Emmanuel Frémiet (1824-1910) more known for his “Jeanne d’Arc” (see here)).

I’m not going to try to give an explanation of the different objects, which I will show in a complete disorder. Except, maybe one word on the “Venus of Brassempouy”, an ivory figurine discovered in 1892 and about 25,000 years old, one of the earliest known realistic representations of a human face. Consider that it was fabricated in mammoth ivory, without the aid of any metallic tools - the Bronze Age started some 20,000 years later, the Iron Age, some 24,000 years later… (This photo is of a perfect copy – I saw the original, but “no photos allowed”.) 

I would recommend a walk in the park, offering some nice views of a distant Paris – in clear weather, or at least of “La Défense” (see previous post), the day I was there last week.

You can go to Saint-Germain-en-Laye by train, or RER, knowing that you are travelling on the tracks of the first French passenger line (1837).


Shammickite said...

What wonderful things on display!

claude said...

J'y suis allée souvent à Saint Germain petiote quand nous allions passer des dimanches chez mon parrain. Je ne me rappelle pas avoir été au Château, aussi merci pour cette publication.