"Saint Denis: Royal Necropolis" Top 5 Page for this destination Île-de-France Things to Do Tip by Elisabcn

Île-de-France Things to Do: 32 reviews and 74 photos

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If you are visiting Paris, block half day on your busy agenda and visit Saint Denis Basilica Cathedral. It is a must for different reasons: historic, architectural, artistic, and religious. Saint Denis is very important in the History of France. It will be one of the three most important royal places together with Paris, the capital, and Reims, the sacred city. Saint Denis became the kings of France’s necropolis, like Westminster in England.
The basilica stands on the site of a Gallo-Roman cemetery with the tomb of Saint Denis, thought to have been the first Bishop of Paris and who was martyred by 250AD. This place of pilgrimage was built in the 5th century and a monastic community will be established during the following centuries who feed the pilgrims fervour with several legends sometimes invented by the monks themselves. King Dagobert was a benefactor to Saint Denis in the 7th century and Pepin the Short was crowned king here in 754. It became one of the most powerful Benedictine Abbeys in the Middle Ages and its monks became the official historians of the French Monarchy writing the « Grandes Chroniques de France » since the 13th century. Most of the kings and queens of France were buried here from the 6th century onwards.

Saint Denis also means the birth of Gothic art. In the 12th century Abbot Suger, who was an influential political figure rebuilt the abbey using new architectural techniques like the cross-ribbed vault. The façade, for example, with its impressive rose window and the statues-columns, inaugurates the design of gothic façades with twin towers (picture 2). Notice also how impressive is the cheviot (known as Abbot Suger’s cheviot) around Saint Louis’ relics: the absence of walls between the chapels and the large windows creates an uninterrupted wall of light. On these windows, the only ones that survived the Revolution, we still can see the Abbot represented (picture 3).

Directions: Saint Denis
Metro L.13 direction to Saint Denis

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  • Updated Dec 20, 2009
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