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"St Denis - crypt" Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis Tip by illumina

The abbey is where the kings of France were buried for centuries and is therefore often referred to as the 'royal necropolis of France'. All but three of the monarchs of France from the 10th century until 1789 have their remains here. Sadly, during the French Revolution, the tombs were opened by workers under orders from revolutionary officials. The bodies were removed and dumped in two large pits nearby.

The church was reopened by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806, but the royal remains were left in their mass-graves, until, following Napoleon's first exile to Elba, the Bourbons briefly returned to power. A search was ordered for the corpses of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, which were found on January 21, 1815 and brought to St. Denis and buried in the crypt. The mass-graves containing all the other remains were opened in 1817, but it was impossible to distinguish individuals from the collection of bones. This being the case, the remains were placed in an ossuary in St. Denis' crypt, behind two marble plates with the name of each monarch duly recorded.

The coffin of the Crown Prince, duke Charles Ferdinand of Berry, who was stabbed to death by a lone fanatic as he left the Opera on 13 February 1820, can be seen in another room in the crypt. King Louis XVIII, who died on 16 September 1824, was buried in the centre of the crypt, close to the graves of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The corpse of king Louis VII (d. 1180), who had been buried elsewhere and had escaped the attention of the revolutionaries, was brought to St. Denis and buried in the crypt.

The crypt also contains the shriveled heart of Louis XVII, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, contained in a crystal urn. The boy-king perished in jail of tuberculosis at the age of 10, just a year after his parents were executed.

Address: 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 93200 Saint-Denis,
Directions: Near Passage Pierre Abélard
Phone: +33 1 48 09 83 54

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written May 15, 2006
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