Posted by: vikingsinspace | February 26, 2010

I. Visit St. Denis

Date Accomplished: 20 February, 2010   

Saint Denis

St. Denis is both the burial site for many of the kings of France and the first church to be built in the Gothic style.  It lies to the north of central Paris, and is easily accessible by the Metro (just take line 13 to Basilique de Saint-Denis).  The church was originally built on the site where Denis, the first bishop of Gaul, was martyred: just outside the capital of Catulliacus, home of the Parisii.  The church would eventually become an Abbey, and in the twelfth century, the Abbot Suger would begin the building works that would transform Saint Denis into a gothic structure.   

My girlfriend and I initially got lost trying to find Saint Denis (we got off at the wrong Metro stop – my mistake), but eventually wound our way through the town to where it was located.  I initially found it strange that there was only one tower on Saint Denis.  There were two, but the north-west tower, and replacements, kept falling down.  The inside is absolutely beautiful, with walls filled with stained-glass window, but none of the ridiculously ornate decorations of other cathedrals.  After wandering around a little, we had to pay an entrance fee to enter the necropolis (placed in the latter part of the church from the transept back) to view the funerary monuments to the French kings.    

Medieval stained glass in one of the chapels

There was a carving for just about every French king there, although many were not created until the thirteenth century (one of the kings at the time was trying to establish his dynasty with the Carolingians and Merovingians that came before by having effigies from those eras placed in the abbey).  I was a little disappointed to see that the monument for Phillip Augustus, the contemporary and companion of Richard I on the Third Crusade, wasn’t present (I am still not sure if it was simply lost, destroyed, or had never been created in the first place; many of the medieval monuments in Paris were destroyed or badly damaged during the French Revolution).  But there were plenty of other interesting monuments to look at, so I enjoyed it regardless.    

We visited on a saturday, and it may have been because of this that the Crypt was closed, or they could just have been doing work on it.  Either way, we didn’t get to visit that, but it hardly mattered because the rest of the church was gorgeous, and I would certainly recommend anyone going to Paris to make the trip out there and have a look.   

Charles I of Anjou, Brother of Saint Louis and King of Sicily, 1226-1285



  1. […] I. __ St. Denis […]

  2. […] and was able to finally climb to the top of Notre Dame.  This was the same trip where we visited Saint Denis, but otherwise we just wandered around […]

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