This old church, the worthy companion of Saint-Pierre-de-Montmartre, stands in a remote quarter of Paris, behind the cemetery Pere La-chaise. Situated upon the side of a hill, one approaches it by a broad flight of thirty-one steps. The edifice is well seen from the church-yard on the north side, entered by a gateway at the left, at the top of the steps, and from this rambling old garden, full of lilac bushes and ancient graves, the building presents a curious aspect.
The side wall of the church seems buried in the side of the hill, while its immense roof of gray tiles piles up, in picturesque perspective, to the cock, surmounting the steeple on the opposite side. The outside of the church is very simple, the belfry, massive and low, but imposing with its buttresses and its two Roman-arched windows and its pointed roof, terminating in a cross, carrying the cock. It is a good old French belfry. We breathe the France of old days here.
The name Charonne is very old. L’abbe Lebeuf, who divined often that which modern science has since proven, said that the name was probably Gallic. The parish is said to date back to Saint-Germain, the illustrious bishop of Auxerre, who in one of his voyages to England stopped at Charonne, and in the presence of the inhabitants performed a miracle, the memory of which was perpetuated by the erection of an oratory which became the parish church.
The church has been much altered from its primitive transition period of construction. Two or three extra bays, destroyed by a fire, were torn down, thus giving the nave a shortened effect. The church is of two epochs. At the beginning of the XIIIth century the first edifice was constructed in the primitive Gothic style. In the XVth century, having become too small, it was pulled down to build a larger one. In this reconstruction the part of the nave and right aisle which form the base of the tower was preserved, and this old part is very interesting. Two old pillars belonging to this XIIIth century construction are readily recognizable, near the present entrance of the church. They bear certain points of resemblance to some of the work at Rheims, Amiens, and the first pillars of the nave at Notre-Dame.
The ornamentation is of the XIIIth and XVth centuries. All this sculpture of Saint-Germain-de-Charonne, despite the mutilations it has under-gone, has lost little of its grandeur and grace. In the leafage the vine motif reigns supreme, and we sense at once the proximity of the grape country.
Remnants of old glass may still be found in the end windows of the aisles. Just within the entrance is the XVIIth century painting of the consecration of Sainte-Genevieve by Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois.