Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Birthplace of the Sun King, Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a city marked by royalty. Its proximity to Paris and Versailles has made it a hunting area per excellence. In the 12th century, the town developed under the impetus of Louis VI who built a first castle, taken over and renovated by his descendants. The city is also the place of residence of a favorite of King Louis XIV, who gave it its splendor by building his famous royal general hospital. Similarly, the former priory is now home to the International High School, born on the initiative of President Eisenhower to symbolize the American-European union. Also, its famous New Castle also makes the fame of the city, a building in which Louis XIV stayed at the beginning of his reign, the terraces designed by Claude Monet. Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a royal town, retains its splendor, both in its architecture and its cultural heritage. Numerous luxury villas, marked by history, which retain their old-fashioned charm, are available on the Paris Ouest Sotheby's International Realty website.

It is from the 10th century that the city takes off, although we know it from much older settlements. Saint-Germain-en-Laye was named, like its sister Saint-Germain-des-Prés, in homage to Saint Germain at the time bishop of Paris; a lay designating a path in the forest, because then the forest covered the Yvelines.
It was royalty that gave Saint-Germain-en-Laye its full significance. Indeed, the kings came to hunt in the nearby forest and noticed the exceptional character of this town built on a plateau overlooking the Paris region, an ideal location for the construction of castles. And indeed, as early as the 12th century, King Louis VI had a first fortress built there, thus dominating the lordships of Ile-de-France. This was the beginning of a long history between the royalty, its court, and the town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
In the 13th century, Blanche de Castilla, wife of Louis VIII and therefore Queen of France, had a large road built which crossed the forest in a straight line between Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Poissy where she gave birth to her son, the future Saint Louis. In 1539, François the 1st transformed the castle into a Renaissance style as we know it today. It was in the chapel of the castle that he married Claude de France during a luxurious wedding and Saint-Germain-en-Laye became the king's favourite residence. Next it was King Henri II who was born in this town and acceded to the throne in 1547, the year of the famous "Coup de Jarnac", a battle that took place on the esplanade of the castle. He had a second castle built, the "new castle" of which only vestiges remain today. The city was then the theatre of some important political decisions, such as, on January 17, 1562, the Edict of Saint-Germain which granted French Protestants freedom of conscience and a certain freedom of worship. On 8 August 1570, the peace treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye put an end to the Third Religious War.
Finally, on 5 September 1638, Louis XIV, the Sun King, was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and spent part of his life there. He had the French gardens and the large terrace laid out by the famous André Le Nôtre. In the street of the “Old drinking trough”, you can still find the hotel of the Marquise de Maintenon, favourite then second wife of Louis XIV. Life in Saint-Germain-en-Laye was then very rich and many artists came to perform there, from Molière to Lully.
Madame de Montespan had a royal general hospital built in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, as well as the Ursuline convent. In the same way, many nobles had their mansions built there, many of which are still present today in the heart of the town. Among other testimonies to the particular situation of this town, Henri IV exempted the inhabitants from all charges, a privilege that lasted until the Revolution, when Saint-Germain-en-Laye took the name of Montagne-du-Bon-Air.
Until then the town was closed by seven granting barriers. Today, it is divided into four large districts, bordered by the streets of Paris and Poissy on the one hand and the streets of Mareil, au Pain and Pontoise on the other. In 1837, the first Paris-Saint-Germain train was in circulation and it was the first line to serve passengers in France. A station will be built in the immediate vicinity of the castle, recomposing the existing garden at this location. In 1862, the composer Claude Debussy was born in Saint-Germain and his house now houses a museum in the Bread street. Finally, in 1904, the Stade of St Germain was founded, a sports club which in 1970 gave birth to the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club.
Saint-Germain-en-Laye, about twenty kilometers from the capital, is first and foremost a historic town with a remarkable heritage. It is built on an exceptional site overlooking Paris and its suburbs, on the edge of the forest. It enjoys the largest municipal territory of the Yvelines, largely occupied by the forest.
The city is famous for its castle, one of the most beautiful in Ile-de-France, its terrace, its forest, but also for its schools, shops and museums. It has preserved a particularly rich historical center, inherited from both the Middle Ages and the royal period. The influence of the city is linked to this exceptional historical heritage, Saint-Germain-en-Laye having been highly appreciated by the French kings and their court. The old center is also classified as a protected area.

Hennemont’s Castle - International High School

At the end of the 12th century, the district is only a mountain, on which a chapel is built. Then in 1308, it became a priory where monks in charge of the royal chapel of the castles of Poissy and Saint Germain en Laye lived. Under Louis XIV, the monastery regained a certain influence.  During the French Revolution, the priory was destroyed and what was left of it was sold. It was in 1907 that the inventor of the Valda pastille, Henri Cannone, had a castle built, called Château d'Hennemont. Made of stones and red bricks, the castle was used as a hospital for colonial troops during the Second World War. The German army will succeed in taking it in June 1940, until August 1944. It is only at the end of the Second World War that the castle is recovered by the French. It was then that the American General Eisenhower, seduced by the construction of the "Shape village", a small village at the top of the hill welcoming American and French soldiers, asked for the creation of an international school in 1952. The objective of the creation of this school was, in the same line as NATO, to unite soldiers of different origins.

Poissy-Saint Germain en Laye Hospital

The hospital of Saint Germain en Laye was first built in 1228 under the name of "Maison-Dieu" to accommodate the sick, at the request of the King of France, Louis IX. However, the "God-House" ceased to function as the establishment had become obsolete. Thus, it will be destroyed and then rebuilt. Run by sisters, access is open to all and will also become a reception area. It became a public hospital in 1956, and the Sisters of Charity left it the following year. Finally, at the end of the last century, it merged with the neighboring hospital at Poissy. Today, the hospital remains emblematic, since its grounds have seen two hospitals pass before it. In fact, the district bears the name of this important city institution.  Today, the district is home to the majority of administrative institutions.

Saint Léger Rotondes

This district takes its name from two important elements that have left their mark on the city. In fact, the parish has existed for hundreds of years. The first parish named Saint-Léger-en-Laye was founded at the beginning of the 14th century. Over time, it was the site of various activities, from flour mills on agricultural land to laundry and tannery. Another feature of this district is the Place des Rotondes. Formerly Place des Coteaux du Bel-Air, its history is much more recent. Indeed, originally a social housing area, the square has known waves of urbanism that have successively given their name to the district. In 1966, a large slab was used as a square, named Coteaux du Bel-Air, then, faced with its deterioration, a reconstruction project was set up. Thus, in 2015, the end of the works was sounded, with the completion of two rotundas housing the city's public institutions such as a police station, an annexed town hall etc., but also entertainment establishments such as a bar-brasserie.

Downtown - Le Plateau

The heart of the city is also its birthplace. Indeed, Saint-Germain-en-Laye enters history with the construction of the castle of Saint Germain, in 1557, at the request of King Henry II. It was then that the town became the new residence of the kings, despite the disinterest of François II and Henri III. Fortunately, Henri IV took over. He undertakes to extend the building and to name it Château Neuf, in comparison with the first castle of his ancestor. Louis XIV will stay there at the beginning of his reign, and despite the move of the king and the court to Versailles in 1682, houses are built, surrounding the castle and its parks. With the French Revolution, the castle was destroyed, and today there are only vestiges of it. The town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye therefore grew out of this district, which is now the town center. Today, this heart of the town has become more attractive, and is very commercial; it attracts families with its suburban areas and parks.

Maison Debussy: This house was built in the 17th century, based on the blueprints of the architect Pierre Le Muet, and is the birthplace of Claude Debussy.

Terrace: Claude Mollet had built terraced gardens on the façade of the New Castle for Henri IV. Then, the gardens were modified by Thomas Francine, thanks to caves, water games and hydraulic automatons. Also André Le Nôtre, as for him, is at the origin of the great Terrace, built between 1669 and 1674, where one can still walk and admire a panorama as far as the eye can see.

Villa E. Desoyer: Initially called the Henri IV Building, the Villa Eugénie Desoyer was acquired in 1884 by Eugénie and Léon Désoyer; the latter bequeathed it to the town in 1929 to become the municipal library until 2005. Today it is used as a Tourist Office.

Debussy Schnapper

Le Prieuré: now a museum, this former Priory was founded at the end of the 17th century.  Madame de Montespan installed a royal general hospital there, but it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the building took its present name. Maurice Denis bought the building and restored it. Then, it will be bequeathed to the city by his descendants, to become a museum. 

Sub-prefecture - Pontel

Originally, the district of Sub-prefecture - Pontel, was a fertile area occupied by market gardening and vineyards. Today, it retains traces of its past through the presence of rural areas and pavilions that attract families looking for a calm and soothing space.