This is a church with a checkered past. St-Germain was designated the royal church when the Valois moved in across the street at the Louvre in the 14th century, and kings, queens, and their entourages often attended mass here. Many of the artists who worked on the Louvre are buried here, including architects Le Vau and Soufflot. But its most infamous moment came at dawn on August 24, 1572, when the church’s bells sounded the signal that began the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre. Despite her erstwhile tolerance, Catherine de Médicis and her son Charles IX gave their blessing to a plot to slaughter the Huguenot (Protestant) leaders. The crowd murdered every Protestant in sight—between 2,000 and 4,000 were killed over the following 5 days.
The church has been rebuilt several times over the centuries, resulting in a mix of architectural styles. The 12th-century Romanesque tower hovers over a 15th-century Flamboyant Gothic porch embellished with human and animal figures. The vaulted interior is relatively simple and shelters some interesting works of art, among which are a monumental sculpted wooden pew, designed for the royal family in 1684 by Le Brun, and a 16th-century carved wood retable depicting scenes from the life of Christ.