Basilica of Saint-Denis
Visit Basilica of Saint-Denis (Paris, France)
The Basilica of St. Denis (Basilique St. Denis) is located in St. Denis, a suburb in the northern part of Paris. This church is most famously the burial site of most of France’s monarchs during the period between the early 1000’s until 1789. As a landmark of architecture, the church has had a long history of design and redesign, and is known as one of the first examples of the Rayonnant style, as well as one of the first structures to use nascent Gothic elements in its design.
The Abbot Suger of St. Denis had the idea to create a church that would overshadow all others at the time; within four years, his dream was realized with the construction of the lobby of the church. This original design was in the early Gothic style, with high vaulted ceilings whose grandiosity was meant to give the impressing of stretching out to heaven. After another four years, in 1944, the choir was completed – overall an impressively short construction time.
Not much of the original structure early Gothic remains today. A century after its construction, the building was redone in the Rayonnant style, which, though still part of the Gothic style, placed emphasis on decoration rather than sheer size. Begun in 1231, its redesign made it considered by many as the first Rayonnant style church, with elaborate stained glass windows, a radiant rose window in the façade, and statue columns.
The abbey of the church is where the Kings of France and their respective families are buried – only three kings were not interred here after their deaths. Most famously, King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, along with his sister were not allowed to be buried at St, Denis. After their beheadings, they were buried in the churchyard of La Madeline. The Dauphin, who died of an illness before he could grow up to be Louis XVII, was also buried elsewhere, in an unmarked grave.
In 1789, during the French revolution, the tombs at St. Denis were opened, and all remains were dumped into mass graves. They were left in these graves, unmarked, though the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte.
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After Napoleon’s exile, there was some effort to recover the bodies, but the decay left the bodies indistinguishable and thus it was decided to take all the recovered remains and place them in an ossuary in St. Denis, behind a marble plate engraved with the names of the buried.
Note: the basilica is a listed French National Monument.
Photos taken within 10 km
Address: Paris, Paris, Paris, 75000 || GPS: latitude 48.935556, longitude 2.359722
Map of Basilica of Saint-Denis & places nearby
Highlights close by
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