History of Prieure Saint-Martin-des-Champs Priory
The church and priory was founded back in the 1100s and much of it has been restored and can be viewed inside when you visit the Musee des Arts et Metiers, which has been housed within it since the late 1700s.
Beginnings of Prieure Saint-Martin-des-Champs Priory
It was during the Merovingian dynasty that a chapel was constructed, which was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, and when excavations were carried out in the 1990s, the existence of a mortuary temple dating from this period between the 5th and 8th centuries was confirmed.
A community of monks established themselves here but the abbey itself was destroyed during the Norman invasion. And although a church located here was in use by Prime Carolingian kings, King Henry I decided to rebuild and found a religious community for the Canons Regular obeying the rules of Saint Augustine.
The Canons were located here 1079 and it was then King Philip I that transferred ownership to the Abbey of Cluny, which was led by Saint Hughes Saint-Martin-des-Champs, which is hence where the name comes from.
Next Stages of Saint-Martin-des-Champs Church
However, this religious sanctuary was rebuilt around 1130 with some of the earliest examples of Gothic architecture, yet because of this very little remains of the original priory.
Then the Nave was rebuilt again in the 13th century along with some of the other priory buildings including the dining hall, which eventually became the library of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers.
But getting back to the time line here, the Prieure Saint-Martin-des-Champs priory became one of the most powerful in Ile de France with its rigorous Benedictine rule, yet by the end of the 15th century things had changed dramatically and far less rigorous management.
Yet it was during the 16th century until the 18th century that much work was undertaken including a monumental gate being built during the reign of King Henry III, an impressive altar constructed by Francois Mansart, along with a monumental staircase and decor by Francois Soufflot to name a few things that changed.
However, things drastically changed all over Paris with the French Revolution, when the monastic community was decimated, and many of the properties were either destroyed or turned into shops or homes.
And now comes the turning point for the Saint-Martin-des-Champs Church, as it was Father Gregory who had originally founded the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, that decided to put the collections from this institution into the old Priory. And this museum now known as the Musee des Arts et Metiers was first installed here in 1798, which was devoted to large machines such as those from agriculture and hydraulics.
So with the installation of this new museum in Paris, it meant that the fate of the church and priory was secured for the future, and having undergone further restoration over the years along with the Musee des Arts et Metiers growing considerably, this historical monument is still around for future generations to admire and enjoy.