Learn “3 Interview Tips for Journalists” from five-time award-winning freelance journalist Joan Mead-Matsui. Conquer your fears and boost your confidence with practical tips you’ll use time and time again.
Do you want to strut into an interview beaming with self-confidence
The 3 Interview Tips for Journalists will help you stand out from the moment you sit down for your interview. Do you want to show your style but you’re not sure where to begin?
Do you want to stand out from the crowd? I’ll teach you how to tap into your interviewee’s story.
Take it from me, interview skills are the single most important instrument in your reporter’s toolbox.
Practice these 3 Interview Tips at your next interview
1. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions. Prepare for the unexpected answer and immediately follow up on any comments you believe will interest your readers. Don’t hesitate to ask for additional information but give your interviewee time to finish a sentence,
2. Keep your options open but have your list of questions on hand. I can tell you from experience, (and more than 1,500 interviews to my credit) interviews that begin and end as a conversationwill make your story easy to prepare and are, by far, the most interesting to read.
3. Read or listen to your interview transcript less than 24 hours after your interview. Follow up with your interviewee by email no later than a day after your interview. If you have an equipment malfunction or you’re not sure about an answer to one of your questions, don’t wait until you’re ready to prepare your story.
Do you love what you’ve read so far?
Think about the most memorable television, radio, YouTube, or podcast interviews you’ve watched or listened to in your lifetime. If one, in particular, comes to mind, chances are the interviewer’s style is one of the factors that set the interview apart from the others you’ve seen.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking to some of the world’s most famous journalists as role models but develop your own style. 3 Interview Tips for Journalists will guide you through some of your more challenging interviews.
Preparation is Key
As a journalist, you set the tone. Prepare for your interview, stay calm, show respect, be patient and inquisitive.
Why do I love interviews?
Above all, people and their stories are intriguing. Everyone I’ve met in my life, from the artist to the politician has a story that’s ripe and ready to tell. In other words, extract that information and present it in an interesting and engaging way while adhering to basic style rules.
Is a travel writer a journalist?
Travel writers are journalists and one of my goals as a mentor is to convey the importance of integrity, creativity, and professionalism to new writers who cover the travel and tourism industry. I’ll expand on tips for travel writers in new lessons in the Journalist Support Hub, a members-only Facebook community. I created the group to give news writers the tools they need to compete and thrive in a highly competitive market.
Do you have your copy of my course, “The INCREDIBLE Interview: Tips for Journalists and Travel Writers?” Learn how to interview with style. I dispell myths, debunk your pre-conceived notions you’ve come to believe about yourself, and teach you everything I learned as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines. You’ll walk away with the lessons I learned that led me to win five newspaper association awards.
“I was really nervous about being interviewed but you’re a great interviewer.” “I can tell you love your job.”
We all love praise. Positive comments propel us to work harder and smarter. Even the occasional positive review is a motivator and indicator you’re moving in the right direction. Soak up the praise and ask for feedback every time but above all, ask your interviewee for final comments. For example, you might ask, would you like to add something? Is there anything I forgot to ask you?
Learn how to put your mind at ease, squash your fears, and set the stage for compelling and engaging INTERVIEWS with people from all walks of life who want to tell their stories.
As always, message me with any questions.
Learn new skills today. Join the Journalist Support Hub, my members-only Facebook group I created to give you ongoing support. Learning is a lifelong process but the truth is, we can’t always find the guidance we need.
Reptiland: 7 Reasons to Visit introduces you to slithering snakes, alligators, two Komodo Dragons, frogs, giant tortoises, parakeets, and an emu. They’re the seven reasons you should plan to spend a morning or afternoon at the Reptiland.
Turtles, lizards, snakes, frogs, and crocodilians from around the world flourish in naturalistic habitats with an educational element that spans 6,500 square feet. Reptiland exhibits and gallery houses are open year-round.
Should you need more coaxing, Reptiland: 7 Reasons to Visit, is the best of both worlds: entertainment and education. Adults and children can count on learning a thing or two about each of the animals who call Reptiland home. Displays and exhibits offer visitors a chance to observe and learn.
ZOOS: MORE THAN ENTERTAINMENT
Very often, we look to zoos for entertainment but, they can provide so much more and ignite curiosity and nurture a sense of respect and wonderment for children and adults of all ages.
Take a moment to browse the photo gallery and then scroll down and continue reading about Clyde Peeling, Reptiland founder and owner and the astonishing animals in his life. At the bottom of the page, click on the links to watch my candid video interviews with Peeling, an astute and captivating speaker with years of expertise.
Reptiland Photo Gallery
Celebrating Success: One Step at a Time
Peeling’s dream began as a roadside zoo and has evolved for more than 50 years as a result of his perseverance and genuine concern for the welfare of the animals. Opening a zoo was a lifelong goal and that dream came to fruition on July 11, 1964, when he opened the Reptiland doors to visitors. Creating “a zoo along the road,” rather a roadside zoo, according to Peeling, has been his focus since he bought the tract of land, formerly a vacant strip of Pennsylvania farmland in Allenwood, PA.
REPTILAND: GROWTH TAKES TIME
Reptiland wasn’t an instant success and the zoo has grown as a result of Peeling’s diligence, periodic expansions, and renovations, and most of all, his dedication to the animal preservation, responsible propagation of a variety of endangered species, and conservation. Peeling is recognized and respected for his efforts throughout the zoo community and it’s not a mystery why. Once you’ve been inside Reptiland you’ll understand.
MEET CLYDE PEELING
Here’s your chance to watch my series of interviews with Clyde Peeling. You’ll learn more about his aspirations and current happenings at Reptiland.
Visit https://reptiland.com for visitor information, current show schedules, and other important details.
Many thanks to Clyde Peeling and his staff for the opportunity for my sons and me to visit Reptiland. I hope you’ve enjoyed Reptiland: 7 Reasons to Visit. My visit was comped but my opinions are my own and based on my experience.
Be sure to check out my related zoo coverage. As a newly married couple and for years while we raised our children, we made a point to regularly visit zoos as a reminder of how we, as humans, can peacefully and respectfully co-exist with the animal kingdom.
All photos by Joan Mead-Matsui unless otherwise noted.
City Hall Grand Hotel is a work of art.
Williamsport’s historic lodging option opened its doors three years ago. The famed City Hall Grand Hotel is a perfect example of design ingenuity. In fact, when designers transformed the downtown multi-level municipal building into lodging they honored Williamsport’s residents and the city’s most prominent industries. The late Joshua Butters saw this project as an opportunity to showcase Pennsylvania historic architecture, preservation, adaptive reuse, and revitalization of a downtown building.
Guests told me they find the decor and creative use of repurposed materials refreshing and commendable. Currently, the hotel draws travelers from around the world.
City Hall Grand Hotel: Repurposed Originality and Ingenuity
Time stands still when you step into this historic downtown Williamsport, PA building. If you envision a grand old style structure that features wooden interior doors with frosted glass and everything down to the doorknobs screams city government hub, you’re on the mark. If you’re looking for a re-purposed historic hotel near Wellsboro or the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, this grand hotel is within an hour from popular outdoor recreation attractions.
Initially, I set out to find lodging within driving distance from a well-known fishing creek. The room descriptions and images on the hotel’s website prompted me to book a room for my sons and me. I was intrigued by what I saw. Rest assured, City Hall Grand Hotel you’ll want to see this treasure – the epitome of Williamsport’s historic past.
Eber Culver: If He Could See It Now
Eber Culver, one of the city’s most prominent architects, designed the building in 1893. The five-story former city hall features a tower and yellow brick trimmed in stone, molded brick ornamentation, and columns of terra cotta. It’s a sight to behold.
Culver’s city hall stands alongside another historic Williamsport landmark, The “Trumpeter,” a Civil War monument erected 120 years ago. Williamsport offers the traveler a taste of the past and important insight into Pennsylvania’s former and current industries. Plan a Williamsport walking tour of the former “Lumber Capital of the World.” You’ll find other fine examples of equally impressive antiquity and the city’s industrial heritage.
Exterior Charm Untouched
The exterior facade remains unchanged due to preservation rules that govern the renovation of historic properties. Consequently, while the outside of the structure hasn’t been altered, the stone and architectural detailing pave the way for what’s in store inside.
The interior reveals Williamsport’s industrial heritage while offering guests modern-day comforts. During the renovation, brick and lumber were salvaged and incorporated as key elements in the overall design.
City Hall Grand Hotel, Williamsport, PA
City Hall Grand Hotel offers two types of rooms: Traditional and Hulk Rooms.
HULK ROOM? What’s a Hulk Room?
Joshua Butters, Hulk Destruction, Construction, and Salvage Company, had a kinship with the city’s history. As a result, authenticity abounds as Butters honors Williamsport and its residents with one-of-a-kind room and names.
Many of the Hulk Rooms feature open showers and separate toilet rooms that lend a European flair. Guests who are traveling with children and need more privacy should request the “Flood” or Lumber rooms.
Privacy A Priority
A sliding door in several of the Hulk Rooms gives adults traveling with children more privacy. Be sure to ask for one of those guest rooms when you book your reservation.
Every detail, from the bed frames and sliding doors to the sink and light fixtures have Butter’s creative stamp.
No two rooms are alike. Butters designed and crafted many of the accents exclusively for the City Hall Grand Hotel owners, Tim and Sandra Butters. Their vision for the late Victorian-Romanesque Revival-style building ties in with its former title, “Lumber Capital of the World.”
Salvaged lumber and hardware are repurposed in each guest room. Wood and metal were repurposed as headboards and other accent pieces.
Lodging options are anything but generic. Guests can choose from a Hulk or Traditional room in the City Hall Grand Hotel. Custom-made fixtures mix with the new, antique, and repurposed to create an artful atmosphere in both styles.
Bright and Airy
Once you roll up the blinds you’ll enjoy the light that floods the room through large windows. Meanwhile, a soft color palette is among the charms you’ll find in a City Hall Grand Hotel traditional room. Each room in this magnificent historic City Hall is equipped with a mini-refrigerator and Keurig machine.
Don’t expect to find a front desk in the lobby or anywhere else at City Hall Grand Hotel. One additional feature we love is the absence of wait time when you check-in. Guests receive a payment confirmation and a key code prior to their arrival.
City Hall Grand Hotel is conveniently located in downtown Williamsport at 454 Pine Street. Plan a visit and combine your stay with a trip to one of the nearby attractions. We visited Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland, which led to an extraordinary video interview with founder, Clyde Peeling. The following day we set out for Rock Run for an afternoon hike to one of Pennsylvania’s most beautiful array of waterfalls.
My lodging was comped but my opinions are my own and based on my experiences.
Joan Mead-Matsui is a five-time award-winning freelance journalist; travel writer and photographer. She covers news and features’ stories that range from unique travel accessories and products to destinations and attractions. Joan was a full-time freelance content and features writer for print and digital news sources and magazines. Visit her art website, chigirie.com.
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A Fly-Fishing Journal by Joan Matsui Travel Writer
Fly-Fishing in Pennsylvania is a weekly summer journal that highlights my most recent efforts to learn to fly fish.
Fly fishing became one of my all-time favorite hobbies about eight years ago after my brother died. He was an avid fisherman and fly fishing brought me comfort and helped with the grieving process. Is my brother making fun of me and criticizing my cast? I’m sure he is.
The most successful anglers I know told me that fly fishing is a life-long learning process. Fly-Fishing Weekly brings you a mix of the best-of and not-so-good days on the water.
Patience is as important as skill. Fly-fishing in Pennsylvania sheds a positive light on the sport. Follow my journey here every week during the summer for tales from the water.
Several years ago, I met a seasoned angler, Jim, while I was wading in the Delaware River. Jim has fished since he was a child. I whined a bit to him that day. Afterward, I was embarrassed because I know not everyone catches fish every time but I needed to let go of my negative emotions so I could move on to a more positive attitude. Letting go was one way to remove my mental barriers.
I didn’t catch anything today, I told him.
His reply, “There are weeks when I don’t catch a fish. It’s not always a particular technique that dictates if you catch a fish. Water temperature and water level play a major role in whether the fish are biting or not. And of course, you also need to consider the fly you’re using.”
He’s correct, at least as far as I can tell. Overall, my technique has immensely improved thanks to practice, an Orvis Fly-Fishing 101 class, and guidance from my fishing friends. Almost eight years into fly fishing, I can roll cast and select a fly that’s somewhat palatable to the fish. That’s a definite improvement.
Hot summer days are problematic. Wading in cool water is a fisher’s delight but the trout, notably a cold water species don’t agree.
The last time I was out on the water – yesterday – fish were rising but unfortunately, did not take any of the flies I threw out. I began with a small nymph and three to four minutes later, I discovered my hook was caught on an underwater branch or it was stuck to the side of a rock. After breaking the line free, I noticed my fly was gone.
When in doubt, I resort to my favorite flies, an elk-hair caddis pattern or a blue-winged olive. Woolly Buggers are an option but they tend to plop, rather than quietly land on the water. I’m working on casting streamers.
Two weeks ago, I brought my oldest son along on a two-hour evening trip to the Lackawanna River, a tributary to the mighty Susquehanna River. The water level had dropped significantly from last week but fishing conditions were nearly perfect. NO FISH!
Typically, by the end of June, the water temperature rises as the rainy days of June disappear. Fly fishing in Pennsylvania is challenging to say the least. Here we are in July, the hottest and most humid month of the year in Northeastern Pennsylvania, with a jump in our air temps to 85 to 90 degrees for several days at a time.
Today, my friend Amy and I met along the Lackawanna River. Amy arrived about an hour before me and had already moved upstream from where we planned to meet. She caught three or four fish in an hour but by 10 a.m., the sun was bright and only a few shaded areas remained along the banks. We were optimistic we’d see some fish rise and we did but again, they weren’t interested in our flies. Once Amy and I commence with fishing, we don’t want to stop.
We ended our afternoon perhaps a bit discouraged but the diehard angler never completely gives in to frustration. After all, there are six more days this week.
Fly fishing in Pennsylvania is as much about learning where to fish as it is about technique. Plan your trip with this guide to Pennsylvania waterways. Find the best places to fly fish.
As many parents know, that’s not an easy task in today’s world.
The question is how do you arrive at that point with all the distractions parents and children face today?
Jobs, school, travel, sports, and electronics can all take their toll on family time. That’s why Jason Bailey, a South Florida resident, created FamClub, a family-oriented subscription service that delights and motivates you to get creative. Jason is a busy father of two and a CEO of several companies but he also recognizes how important family time is and he strives to put the “fun” back in family time.
Motivation with Rewards
Above all, Bailey’s FamClub motivates children and parents through a reward system that encourages moms, dads, and kids to play and work together. FamClub embraces the technology that leads us astray from playing, working and growing together but the club’s goal reminds us to shift our attention back to the family unit.
I agreed to test and review this service because as a parent, I remember how much my children appreciated our time together and the activities we shared. Similarly, we fished, planted gardens, hiked, and created art projects often. When my sons reached their teens and our lives became more hectic, we struggled to find together time and keep up with chores. Even so, the activities we embraced are forever etched in our minds.
Choose A Plan That Works for You
FamClub offers three subscription plans: Monthly, Premium, and Basic. Premium members receive a monthly customized box that’s packed with rewards for every registered family member.
The items you’ll find in the rewards boxes will put a smile on your face. The first box I received contained a water bottle, egg-shaped chalk, foam football, trimming shears, puzzle, gardening gloves, and a mini clay pot with flower seeds. They’re essential ingredients that will motivate your children to work side-by-side with you. Most importantly, FamClub makes it incredibly simple to integrate rewards with activities you and your children already enjoy.
An app allows you to sign up and track your goals while you’re mobile. Visit the app store on your mobile device to download it.
Not every Friday am I able to end my work week midday but when time allows and the weather cooperates, I break loose from my laptop around 3 p.m. to fly fish. Sometimes, I might get away earlier. Fly-Fishing Friday reminds you to spend more time outdoors.
Fly Fishing is one of my all-time favorite hobbies. Give me a day without rain and I’ll head to one of our local rivers or streams for a few hours. Chances are I’ll lose track of time while I’m focusing on my casting or soaking in the sunshine. We have an abundance of pristine water and in Northeastern Pennsylvania and therefore, why waste a spectacular day?
We had a wet start to our spring with record precipitation but they gave way to one of the best summers we’ve had in years. In fact, many of the days without rain have been sunny and beautiful with ample water in our streams.
Today is one of those days when nature beckons me to spend time wading and foraging for trout. The local creek is an ideal close-to-home retreat and particularly after the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission stocks it with trout in April.
Let’s begin with last weekend. I strayed from my usual fishing hole to another one that’s located at the confluence of two creeks. I caught a fish in the pool a few weeks ago but last week was a no-show. Not one trout rose to the surface even with a dense hatch around 7 p.m.
Do you agree fishing isn’t always synonymous with the number of fish you catch?
I’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment.
Perhaps, you also take the time to notice and appreciate your surroundings. If not, stop fishing for a moment and listen to the sounds of water as it runs over rocks and watch the birds flying overhead.
This year was outstanding. I’ve caught (and released) more trout since opening day than I expected. That’s the beauty of fly fishing. Seeing a trout rise to take a dry fly is what attracted me to fly fishing.
Ledges Hotel: Architectural Gem Offers Modern Luxury
Redesigned by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson for Settlers Hospitality Group
Historic Factory Repurposed is the story of Ledges Hotel, a Settlers Hospitality property.
There are extraordinary views from the windows at the Ledges Hotel – whether you’re looking in or out.
Each Settlers Hospitality Group property has its own unique story. The group’s five restored lodging options are architectural gems redesigned with the Genzlinger family’s flair. Ledges Hotel reflects design ingenuity that has guests clamoring for reservations.
Seeing is believing.
Jeanne and Grant Genzlinger embarked on the Ledges renovation project with a highly-focused vision. The ideas allowed them to masterfully meld the natural rocky landscape with Hawley’s history, antiquity, and charm.
Grant and Jeanne quest to restore and repurpose historic buildings began more than 30 years ago. Their first property, Settlers Inn, is an art and craft-style hotel that sits along Main Street in Hawley. Meanwhile, Ledges Hotel offers guests live weekend entertainment with only five minutes away.
Spectacular Views Abound
The hotel’s name, Ledges, is a fitting description. Glance around you to fully appreciate the historic factory repurposed building redesign and its placement along the gorges.
Timeless custom-designed furniture adds a finishing touch to the already impeccably stylish decor.
Contemporary Hotel Set In Historic Town
Ledges Hotel guests come to Hawley, PA to engage in a variety of activities. Antique and other specialty shops, restaurants and diners, and businesses line the downtown Hawley streets.
Similarly, the Genzlinger family works tirelessly to offer guests an engaging, authentic, and educational experience. Co-founder Grant works with other local business owners and organizations to broaden the array of recreational opportunities available to visitors.
Design Mirrors Charm and Antiquity
Originally constructed as a home to the John S. O’Connor Glass Factory, Ledges Hotel sits next to a series of waterfalls that drain into a tree-lined gorge. The massive rock ledges and Paupack High Falls are the perfect backdrops for this historic factory repurposed property
Now IS the Ideal Time to Visit
As the Wallenpaupack Creek gushes over the stone ledges into the gorge, you see natural beauty at its finest. Anytime is the perfect time to plan a Ledges Hotel weekend getaway. Choose your favorite season to see an ever-changing Pennsylvania-style landscape.
The scenic Lackwaxen River, a 31.3-mile tributary of the Delaware River beckons you to fish or launch your canoe and kayak.
Anglers delight in the ample fishing opportunities and selection of wild trout, bass, panfish, shad, and other fish species. Spring and fall are the best times to fish the Lackawaxen River.
Ledges’ management caters to outdoor enthusiasts. Grant works with the local tourism board to maintain and develop hiking and cycling trails. Inquire about local activity hubs at the front desk.
If water sports are not your first choice for entertainment, Churches, shops, and other services guests want are nearby.
You’ll long remember the Japanese-style soaking tub and the view from your one-bedroom two-story suite.
DINE IN AT “GLASS”
“Glass” wine. bar. kitchen is Ledges Hotel’s on-site restaurant and one of the four best restaurants in the Pocono Mountains. Through the years, guests and local residents stop by for a meal and live music. Dine al fresco year-round under heating towers alongside the waterfalls and gorge. The chef created a variety of small plate dishes that are perfect for sharing and late-night fare.
(I ordered the tasty Seared Ahi Tuna, Shiso sesame crusted, jicama apple slaw, and sweet onion dashi with a side of crispy Brussels Sprouts).
Ledges Hotel is an outstanding wedding venue and special occasion option. The location, landscaped grounds, and gracious staff make this historic factory repurposed a quintessential choice for parties and events. Visit https://ledgeshotel.com/hotel for more information.
Historic Hotels of America Affiliation
Further, Ledges Hotel was built in 1890 and is a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2013.
To clarify, throughout the year, I cover a variety of properties from historic hotels to fishing lodges. Rest assured, my trips were comped but my opinions are my own and based on my experiences.
(All photos by Joan Mead-Matsui unless otherwise noted).
Grant Genzlinger: Chef Turned Hotelier
My recent visits to two popular Hawley, Pennsylvania properties opened the door to an informative and candid interview with the man behind Settlers Hospitality Group.
Grant Genzlinger, Settlers Hospitality co-founder, was a chef at Settlers Inn when he saw an extraordinary opportunity to offer travelers the best of all possible worlds. Properties with a history combined with the modern conveniences guests crave are a few of the reasons the company’s properties are celebrated.
A Storyteller at Heart
I encourage you to listen to my interview with Grant as he taps into his storyteller personality and engages in heartfelt conversation about what makes Settlers Hospitality Group properties stand out. You’ll find the link at the bottom of this post.
Five Unforgettable Experiences
You’ll understand why Grant has built his life around the hospitality industry after you read this article. Welcoming guests and setting up an exemplary experience is his specialty and with his wife, Jeanne, as co-founder, the team has meticulously crafted five unforgettable properties.
The Settlers Inn, Silver Birches Resort, Ledges Hotel, Hotel Anthracite, and The Sayre Mansion are perfect lodging options that are ideal for a wide variety of customers’ tastes and needs.
Creating The Settlers Inn Model
The Settler’s Inn was Grant and Jeanne’s first opportunity to create their extraordinary hospitality model that laid the groundwork for continued success. Each property evolved in response to a perceived need and the couple was spot on. The Sayre Mansion, for example, got its start at the same time as their son, Justin, was a student at Lehigh University. The neglected structure, rundown and in need of tender loving care, beckoned the Genzlinger couple to give birth to the Lehigh Valley boutique hotel.
Redefined Adaptive Reuse
What is Grant’s favorite property?
Suffice to say, the mere mention of any of the company’s trendsetting accommodations brings a smile to Grant Genzlinger’s face and a willingness to discuss the cuisine, decor, history, and restoration.
Scroll down to watch my interview with Grant Genzlinger.
Eye for Design
All guest rooms feature a different look and feel with a mix of hand-crafted furniture, accessories, and a carefully chosen color palette, a product of Grant and Jeanne’s vision and dedication to originality. Together, the elements are indicative of a well-developed eye for design and an ability to combine those elements without fussiness. Extreme comfort is the result.
The Settlers Inn is an architectural gem that stands in the heart of downtown Hawley. Begin and end your day with a meal in the dining room served by overtly polite servers who uphold the impeccably high standards Settlers Hospitality management promise their guests. Likewise, nightly specials offered throughout the year range from fish and seafood to meat and pasta. Dinner reservations are recommended.
The Settlers Inn Photo Gallery
A Must-See Interview with Grant Genzlinger
My stay at The Settlers Inn was comped but my opinions are my own and based on my experiences.
An Interview with David Sheppe, American Friends for the Preservation of Saint Germain des Prés (AFPSGP) director.
Tourists looking for must-see Paris architecture and history in the making should plan a stop at Saint Germain des Prés, Paris’ oldest church.
“Just go. Go and visit the church and you will be able to see now what the works have accomplished and what they will provide in terms of linking us to the past and the future in ways that surpass our ability to merely explain in words here.” David Sheppe
David Sheppe is leading the current “Adopt A Saint Germain Star™ Campaign in the United States. The AFPSGP is a 501(c)(3) charity devoted to United States fundraising efforts that support the Saint Germain des Prés church restoration project that began in 2012.
Read my interview with David to learn more about the organization’s collaboration with its French counterparts, The Preservation of Saint Germain des Prés Foundation.
“The church is today in serious need of renovation and restoration owing to the ravages of time, use, and under-funding.” David Sheppe
Q & A Interview with David Sheppe
What is the history of the Saint Germain des Pres? Why is it must-see Paris architecture?
There has been a church or abbey on the same spot in central Paris since the founding of Saint Germain des Près by Childebert, son of Clovis, the first Frankish King, in 543 AD. The current structure is one thousand years old. Today, it remains a vibrant parish and community in the heart of Paris’s most resonant neighborhood.
Two previous church structures were destroyed by Viking and
other raiders in the eighth and ninth centuries. The current church, finished
in 1014 AD, is unique in France as it is an amalgam of Romanesque architecture
and multiple pre-Gothic and Gothic influences.
For many centuries SGP was the home to the Benedictine
order of monks who were renowned for their religious and secular scholarship
and who was instrumental in the founding of the Sorbonne in the 13th century.
The church was the site of the publication of the first Bible in French (as
opposed to Latin) and became a center of publication and research during the
entirety of the High Middle Ages in France.
During the French Revolution, the church was shuttered and
then transformed into a gunpowder storage building by anti-clerical
revolutionaries. Anti-clericalism reached its apogee in 1792 when 102 priests
were massacred in one of the church’s side chapels. Shortly thereafter, the
gunpowder storage room blew up and much of the surrounding Abbey and part of
the church was destroyed.
Victor Hugo was instrumental in saving the church from being razed by the city authorities in the early 19th century and was the driving force to a major renovation undertaken soon thereafter. Another renovation was undertaken in the 1830s and 1840s – the last renovation before the project now underway in our time. A key contribution to the restoration in the 1840s was the work of Hippolyte Flandrin, who painted a series of massive murals lining both sides of the nave that are now undergoing significant restoration work.
Much of the current church is original and there are several vestigial pieces of the ancient predecessor churches dating back more than 15 centuries. There are two original stain glassed windows in the church that are 800 years old and have survived endless imprecations and assaults over time. (Two further original stained glass windows are in the United States – one at the MOMA in NY and the other in the Walters Museum of Art in Baltimore.)
In 1860, the church was granted full Monument Historique classification and is therefore provided with full landmark preservation status. The church is today in serious need of renovation and restoration owing to the ravages of time, use, and under-funding. 85% of the budget for renovations must come from public hands as, quite simply, the City of Paris (which owns the structure) does not have sufficient funds to meet the restoration needs of all churches in its care.
The current restoration project was launched in 2012 and, funding permitting should be completed in 2021 or 2022. The French fundraising committee and American Friends for the Preservation of SGP are working in extremely close cooperation.
Please describe the location, neighborhood, and visualizations of how the church blends in with its surroundings.
The church is and has always been, the central defining monument and lifeforce for an entire neighborhood which, uniquely in France, was named for the church (rather than the usual other way around). It remains by design the tallest building in the neighborhood and stands like a shepherd over the comings and goings of flocks of the faithful and many, many tourists and lovers of Paris.
The SGP neighborhood is ancient and remains today at the intellectual heart of the city, surrounded as it is by great numbers of art galleries, publishing houses, museums (including the Academy Française and the École des Beaux Arts), world-class restaurants and cozy cafes, bookstores, movie houses, and venues for music both classical and modern.
Why was the church slated for restoration? What are the restoration team’s goals?
The church is not in danger of falling down. Notwithstanding that, there has been in the 170 years since the last restoration an incredible degradation of artistic and architectural elements at SGP – mostly, but not exclusively, on the inside of the church. The works are proceeding by tranches and are about 60 percent complete, but funding for the remaining 40 percent is not in hand. We need to raise further dollars to ensure timely and integral completion of the project.
Who are the architect-of-record, project manager, primary and secondary funding sources for the project, construction manager, interior designers (if applicable), and anyone else who has had a significant role in the restoration?
The renovation project is being conducted by and on behalf of the City of Paris, the owner of the church. More specifically, the project falls under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, Department of Historic Monuments. The master Preservation Architect in Chief is Pierre Antoine-Gatier of Historic Monuments department.
Please explain how this restoration differs from a renovation.
The dividing line can be subtle, an exercise in shades of gray. Notre Dame was, and now is owing to the fire, in full restoration mode because its outside physical envelope is in need of serious repair and replacement to preserve the integrity of the structure.
At SGP, the outside structure – though not in flawless form
and thus in need of attention – is in reasonably good shape. (Exceptions abound
however and will be the object of attentive work in the years ahead). Most of
the current SGP project is devoted to (a) restoring architectural elements
which have been damaged or depredated to the point of existential threat and
(b) renovating artworks (of all kinds: in stone, in woodworks, in painted and
sculptural works) to bring them back to their original form and sheen. So, the
SGP project is a painstaking marriage of both renovation and restoration.
Why is the art in this church worth the time, effort, and cost to restore?
The SGP church is a unique and iconic example of Romanesque architecture. It houses world-class art and stained glass and sculptural works. It is the site of ancient and ongoing scholarship and research. It is the oldest church in Paris. It is universally recognized and universally loved. Proof of this is that so many people from all over the world have contributed and will continue to contribute to the restoration and renovation of this irreplaceable element of world patrimony. It has a secular and religious history that thrills and inspires. It is ethereally beautiful. It is a living church today, with many outreach programs in Paris, in France and around the world. Its music program is incomparable. Its thousand-year-old bells sound the hours today as they have for over 10 centuries.No
What was your first impression of the church?
My own first impression was that this place, this church,
speaks to fundamental questions of the relationship of man to his beginnings
and to his future. It is an intimate church, not overpowering. It whispers
where others shout. After 15 centuries of history, we have received this church
in trust and we are determined to pass it on and into the next 15 centuries of
living history and inspiration.
How is the project funded?
As mentioned, the City of Paris owns the church and has provided 15 percent of the overall funding for the project. The remaining 85 percent of the cost will be borne by private hands – individuals in the main, many donors of small amounts in the main – from all over the world. The entire project has been priced out at approximately $7 million. Of the 60 percent of monies raised to date, some 40 percent has been raised in the United States. Currently, we are running low on funds and much more needs to be done.
What are a few of the setbacks, if any, the team has encountered and is the project moving along according to schedule?
It is particularly satisfying to note that the project is currently on time and on budget – a remarkable achievement for this kind of project. Again, our financial resources are today at a low ebb, so we need to redouble our efforts to reach friends of the church, of Paris and her history, and of the project to respectfully ask for additional support. Every dollar donated is a precious gift, hugely needed and immensely appreciated.
When you think of the finished restoration, what do you visualize?
The child is a father to the man. The works completed to date are breathtaking, extraordinarily beautiful and inspirational. And they suggest just how amazing the church will be when finally finished in 2021 or 2022. So, the best answer to this question is: just go. Go and visit the church and you will be able to see now what the works have accomplished and what they will provide in terms of linking us to the past and the future in ways that surpass our ability to merely explain in words here.
Is the church open now or closed to the public during restoration?
The church is now open and will remain so during all renovation works. There is no admission charge (except for during regular organ and classical music concerts, very well attended by locals and tourists alike). Some of the current works are cordoned off by scaffolding, ropes, plastic tarps, and the like, but these are extremely localized. The completed works and the areas to undergo future works are all fully available to all who come – so do go.1
How does the church plan to celebrate the grand opening or the completion of the project?
There is no definitive plan as to how the finalized project will be celebrated in two or three years. That said, last year, at the end of the third tranche (of seven), the City of Paris held a gala evening of thanksgiving and celebration under the direction of the Mayor of Paris who was there that evening. It was a night for the ages, grandiose and filled with meaning and vibrancy. Something similar will occur when all is done. It just remains to be seen what will be planned.