St-Germain-des-Prés was originally a little market town
formed around the abbey of St. Germain. At that time, it
consisted mostly of fields worked by the Benedictine
monks. The church, which dates from the era, shelters the
tombs of the Merovingians and St. Germain, bishop of
Paris. The current building has been reconstructed and
added to over the years, starting in 990 after the Norman
raids. The abbey gave a piece of its land along the Seine
to the University Pré-aux-Clercs.
Marguerite de Valois, Henry IV's first wife, also managed to get a piece of the Pré-aux-Clercs, where she built an enormous mansion overlooking the Seine. She got the land under the condition that the banks of the river would have the name "Malacquis" (ill-gotten) - the name has since been transformed into "Malaquais". Many big statesmen lived here around the end of the 17th century, and their mansions and courtyards are today the seat of many governmental ministries.
After the Revolution, the neighborhood would not come back into style until after the Second World War. Ultimately, it came to be known as a center of intellectualism; the Café de Flore and the Deux Magots were popular hangouts for such minds as Vian, Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir.