The Castle/Museum at St Germain en Laye!

And now that I am in the neighborhood of St Germain en Laye, a wonderful town near my old home, why not tell you again about a wonderful castle of great historical significance and a beautiful museum today. It is a must see while here and very easy to get to from Paris.

The town of St Germain en Laye is located in department 78, call Yvelines , west of Paris. It was very near me and I did shopping and eating out there often with the family. It is ,also, the birthplace of king Louis XIV with a beautiful castle now a wonderful museum. To come best on the RER A from many points in Paris, or the train  station Grand  Ceinture ,just at entry to the city from the west, train from Paris gare St Lazare, the official site for the local trains is http://www.transilien.com/web/site/lang/en

The most obvious parkings  is by the RER station, two call RER and Chateau parking in two levels. The other is to go underneath the Vieux Marché or market area on ave de la République, or the parking Pologne at rue de Pologne or the Monoprix store parking. The city of SGL has a good explanation on parkings and public transport even in French can easily be understood, here http://www.saintgermainenlaye.fr/cadre-de-vie/venir-circuler-et-stationner-a-saint-germain/rer-bus-voiture-taxis-liaisons-avec-les-aeroports/

The town offers many sightseeing choices and it is very easy to get to from Paris.  The town grew because of the castle and the forest that surround it which are magnificent with a wonderful view of Paris in the distance and its monuments at the park done by Le Notre. The name is old possibly from 972 AD when king of the French Robert I had built a monastery in honor of St Germain ,probably St Germain des Prés. The name of the town can be translated as Saint Germain of the forest in new French.

St Germain en Laye

In 1777, King Louis XVI donated the New Castle, in bad condition, to his brother Charles, Count of Artois, the future Charles X. He had it demolished with the intention of rebuilding it.  Under the Empire, the Château-Vieux was repaired to form a cavalry school. It hosts the Special Military School of Cavalry, opened in 1809 and merged, in 1914, with the Special Military School of Saint-Cyr. From 1836 to 1855, the castle was transformed into a military penitentiary. It was extensively restored under Napoleon III . On March 8, 1862, an imperial decree acts the creation in the castle of a Museum of Celtic and Gallo-Roman Antiquities (later renamed Museum of National Antiquities, then recently , and still today the Museum of National Archaeology).

St Germain en laye

The castle revolves around an inner courtyard in the shape of a trapezoid, taking the primitive route of Charles V Castle. The wings that frame this courtyard traditionally bear the following names: King’s Wing (north wing), Queen’s Wing (east Wing), King’s Children’s wing (southeast wing), Chapel Wing (southwest Wing), and the Feast Hall Wing (West Wing).

St Germain en laye

St Germain en laye

The ballroom is located in the West Wing. Unfinished at the death of François I, it was inaugurated by his son Henri II at a grand banquet in 1549 to celebrate the baptism of his son. It is more than 500 m2 and has a monumental chimney with a stone motif, which features the salamander; the emblem of François I. Louis XIV transformed it into a comedy room, and the team of formidable instruments. More than one hundred and forty representations of all kinds were given in this room considered the largest of the whole kingdom. Lully and Molière knew their hours of glory here. In 1666, king Louis XIV performed himself in the Ballet des Muses. This room now houses the comparative archaeology room.

The castle museum are well kept with a beautiful chapel of  St. Louis, located in the Gothic castle, is a vestige of the ancient fortress. It was built by Saint Louis in 1238. Louis XIV, although born in the Château Neuf, was baptized there. An inner courtyard, floors of antiquities artifacts from the region very nicely display, and the adjoining park design by Le Notre overlooking Paris. Behind the castle in what is now the restaurant Pavillon Henri IV, a marker displays the fact that king Louis XIV was born there.

St germain en laye

St Germain en laye

Of course, the castle now the museum of antiquities or musée national des antiquites it covers in three floors wonders of the old days found in the surrounding areas, and it is considered one of the best in its genre.  Behind you see an archdoor leading to the Pavillon Henri IV restaurant (great dining) an enblem showing this is where Louis XIV was born. The parc and gardens were done from  1668 to 1675 by the great gardener Le Nôtre, and it has an expansive view over Paris and the vineyards of Le Pecq that after doing so from antiquity are now back in form from 2000 onward producicng pinot noir base wines.  The museum page is here,  Museum of National Antiquities SGL

St Germain en laye

The tourist office of SGL for more info is here  http://www.ot-saintgermainenlaye.fr/

Some of the stories and personalities of the Castle and the city of Saint Germain en Laye were:

king François I married Claude de France in the Chapel of the old castle in 1514 , and became its favorite living property. Henri II is also born here, and he became king in 1547!  Charles IX established a glass making trade in 1561, and  Henri IV exempt the inhabitants of all taxes in 1599 priviledge that lasted until 1789! king Louis XIII spent his youth at the old castle, and it was while hunting from here that he discovered another place to later build his hunting lodge-Versailles. He later died here in 1643, while his son Louis XIV was born here in 1638. As king Louis XIV spent a great deal of his time here from 1661  to 1682 afterward the castle decline as the new other property was been built at Versailles. The king of England Edward II came here in exile from 1689 to his death in 1701 at the old castle, and is buried across the street at the church of St Germain (see that post).

A town that saw the birth of  (year following name) :Henri II, 1518; Marguerite de France, Queen Margot, 1553 ; Jeanne d’Albret, (mother of Henri IV and great figure of the Reformist era) ,1528;Charles IX , 1550 ; Louis de Buade count de Frontenac,( Governor of New France (Canada)),1622; King Louis XIV, 1638 ; Philippe de France, duke of Orléans,1640 ; Philippe de France, duke of Anjou, (oldest son of Louis XIV), 1660; Marie-Louise  of England , (daughter of king James II of England exile in the city and buried at the Church of St Germain across from castle), 1692;  Claude Debussy ,1862 ; Edouard Bourdet, 1887;  Jehan Alain, 1911 ;  Christian Fouchet, 1911,(ambassador and previous minister and follower from the first hour of Gen de Gaulle); José Artur, 1927; Michel Pericard (1929-1999), (previous mayor of Saint-Germain- en-Laye (1977-1999),deputy of the Yvelines  (1978-1999) , and Vice President of the National Assembly of France (1997-1999); Jean-Edern Hallier, 1936;  and Pierre Douglas, 1941…

A town that saw the passing of figures such as (year of death following name) : Louis XIII,1643 ; James II king of England, 1701; The knight  Ramsay  1743 ; François de Beauharnais, (father in law of Joséphine first wife of Napoléon), 1800 ; prince de Polignac, 1847 ; Adolphe Thiers, President of the IIIe Républic, 1877; the Poet Catulle Mendès, 1909 ; Henri Cochet, Tennis champion 6 times winner of the Davis Cup, 1987; Suzanne Chantal, roman writer, 1994.

And who have passed by in the city, some of the famous are : Molière, alias Jean-Baptiste Poquelin; Mozart for a day in 1778 ; Benjamin Franklin also in 1778; Alexandre Dumas father and son. The father wrote  “Les Trois mousquetaires” and “Le Comte de Monte Cristo” in the city while commander of the national guard in town as well as directs the theater.  The son wrote  “La Dame aux camélias” in the city. The musician Claude Debussy, and the painter Maurice Denis , that have a museum in the city as well. And of course, many many others too numerous to mention.

So therefore, is it worth a detour out of Paris glitz! come on over the Yvelines dept 78 of the region of Ïle de France; the first , history , architecture, marvels of my belle France. Enjoy SGL wholly!

And remember, happy travels ,good health, and many cheers to all!!!

2 Comments to “The Castle/Museum at St Germain en Laye!”

  1. Simply because Louis XIV was baptised there and Le Notre designed the gardens is reason enough to visit: it is bound to be brilliant. It looks great too. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

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