The Basilica of Saint-Denis (french: Basilique royale de Saint-Denis|links=no, now formally known as the ) is a large former medieval abbey church and present cathedral in the city of Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris. The building is of singular importance historically and architecturally as its choir, completed in 1144, is widely considered the first structure to employ all of the elements of Gothic architecture. The basilica became a place of pilgrimage and a necropolis containing the tombs of the French Kings, including nearly every king from the 10th century through Louis XVIII in the 19th century. Henry IV of France came to Saint-Denis to formally renounce his Protestant faith and become a Catholic. The Queens of France were crowned at Saint-Denis, and the royal regalia, including the sword used for crowning the kings and the royal sceptre, were kept at Saint-Denis between coronations. The site originated as a Gallo-Roman cemetery in late Roman times. The archaeological remains still lie beneath the cathedral; the people buried there seem to have had a faith that was a mix of Christian and pre-Christian beliefs and practices. Around 475 St. Genevieve purchased some land and built Saint-Denys de la Chapelle. In 636 on the orders of Dagobert I the relics of Saint Denis, a patron saint of France, were reinterred in the basilica. The relics of St-Denis, which had been transferred to the parish church of the town in 1795, were brought back again to the abbey in 1819.Catholic Encyclopedia: Abbey of Saint-Denis
/ref> In the 12th century, the Abbot Suger rebuilt portions of the abbey church using innovative structural and decorative features. In doing so, he is said to have created the first truly Gothic building. In the following century the master-builder Pierre de Montreuil rebuilt the nave and the transepts in the new Rayonnant Gothic style. The abbey church became a cathedral in 1966 and is the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Denis, Pascal Michel Ghislain Delannoy. Although known as the "Basilica of St Denis", the cathedral has not been granted the title of Minor Basilica by the Vatican. The tall spire, dismantled in the 19th century, is to be rebuilt. The project, initiated more than 30 years ago, was to have begun in May 2020, and is expected to take about 11 years at a cost of about €28 million.


Early churches

The cathedral is on the site where Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris, is believed to have been buried. According to the "Life of Saint Genevieve", written in about 520, He was sent by Pope Clement I to evangelise the Parisii He was arrested and condemned by the Roman authorities. Along with two of his followers, the priest Eleutherus and diacre Rusticus, he was decapitated on the hill of Montmartre in about 25 A.D.. According to the legend, he is said to have carried his head four leagues to the Roman settlement of Catulliacus, the site of the current church, and indicated that it was where he wanted to be buried. A martyrium or shrine-mausoleum was erected on the site of his grave in about 313 AD, and was enlarged into a basilica with the addition of tombs and monuments under Saint Genevieve. These including a royal tomb, that of Aregonde, the wife of King Clothair I. File:Dagobert visitant le chantier de la construction de Saint-Denis.jpg|Dagobert visiting the construction site of the Abbey of St. Denis (painted 1473) File:Clovis2 saint denis.jpg|Clovis II visiting Saint Denis (painted in 15th c.) Dagobert I, King of the Franks (reigned 628 to 637), transformed the church into the Abbey of Saint Denis ,a Benedictine monastery in 632. It soon grew to a community of more than five hundred monks, plus their servants. Dagobert also commissioned a new shrine to house the saint's remains, which was created by his chief councillor, Eligius, a goldsmith by training. An early ''vita'' of Saint Eligius describes the shrine: :Above all, Eligius fabricated a mausoleum for the holy martyr Denis in the city of Paris with a wonderful marble ciborium over it marvelously decorated with gold and gems. He composed a crest t the top of a tomband a magnificent frontal and surrounded the throne of the altar with golden axes in a circle. He placed golden apples there, round and jeweled. He made a pulpit and a gate of silver and a roof for the throne of the altar on silver axes. He made a covering in the place before the tomb and fabricated an outside altar at the feet of the holy martyr. So much industry did he lavish there, at the king's request, and poured out so much that scarcely a single ornament was left in Gaul and it is the greatest wonder of all to this very day.

The Carolingian church

File:Saint-Denis (93), basilique, crypte d'Hilduin 1.jpg|Walls of the crypt built by the Abbot Hilduin (9th century) File:Underground crypt @ Basilique de Saint-Denis @ Saint-Denis (30624057081).jpg|Capital of a column in the Carolingian crypt File:Oldest tombs @ Underground crypt @ Basilique de Saint-Denis @ Saint-Denis (30624049031).jpg|Earliest sarcophogi in the crypt During his second coronation at Saint-Denis, King Pepin the Short made a vow to rebuild the old abbey. The first church mentioned in the chronicles was begun in 754 and completed under Charlemagne, who was present at its consecration in 775. By 832 the Abbey had been granted a remunerative whaling concession on the Cotentin Peninsula. According to one of the Abbey's many foundation myths a leper, who was sleeping in the nearly completed church the night before its planned consecration, witnessed a blaze of light from which Christ, accompanied by St Denis and a host of angels, emerged to conduct the consecration ceremony himself. Before leaving, Christ healed the leper, tearing off his diseased skin to reveal a perfect complexion underneath. A mis-shapen patch on a marble column was said to be the leper's former skin, which stuck there when Christ discarded it. Having been consecrated by Christ, the fabric of the building was itself regarded as sacred. Most of what is now known about the Carolingian church at St Denis resulted from a lengthy series of excavations begun under the American art historian Sumner McKnight Crosby in 1937. The structure altogether was about eighty meters long, with an imposing facade, a nave divided into three sections by two rows of marble columns, a transept, and apse and at the east end. During important religious celebrations, the interior of the church was lit with 1250 lamps. Beneath the apse, in imitation of St. Peter's in Rome, a crypt was constructed, with a Confession, or martyr's chapel, in the center. Inside this was a platform on which sarcophagus of Denis was displayed, with those of his companions Rusticus and Eleutherus on either side. around the platform was a corridor where pilgrims could circulate, and bays with windows. Traces of painted decoration of this original crypt can be seen in some of the bays. The crypt was not large enough for the growing number of pilgrims who came, so in about 832 the abbot Hilduin built a second crypt, to the west of the first, and a small new chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary was constructed next to the apse. The new crypt was extensively rebuilt under Suger in the 12th century.

Suger and the Early Gothic Church

File:Basilique Saint-Denis - Verrière de l'Arbre de Jessé - Suger.JPG|Abbot Suger depicted in the Tree of Jesse window (12th c) File:Basilica Saint Denis ambulatory.JPG|The ambulatory (1140-1144) File:Basilique Saint-Denis chapelle de la Vierge.jpg|Chapel of the Virgin [Abbot_Suger_(c._1081_–_1151),_the_patron_of_the_rebuilding_of_the_Abbey_church,_had_begun_his_career_in_the_church_at_the_age_of_ten,_and_rose_to_become_the_Abbot_in_1122._He_became_a_confidant_of_the_King,_as_a_first_Minister_of_[[Louis_VI_of_France.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="bbot_Suger.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="[Abbot Suger">[Abbot Suger (c. 1081 – 1151), the patron of the rebuilding of the Abbey church, had begun his career in the church at the age of ten, and rose to become the Abbot in 1122. He became a confidant of the King, as a first Minister of [[Louis VI of France">Louis VI and [[Louis VII, and served as head of government in the King's place when the King was absent on the Crusades. In about 1135 he began rebuilding and enlarging the abbey. In his famous account of the work undertaken during his administration, Suger explained his decision to rebuild the church, due to the decrepit state of the old structure and its inability to cope with the crowds of pilgrims visiting the shrine of St Denis, particularly
"...on special days such as the feast of the blessed Denis ..when the narrowness of the place forced women to run to the altar on the heads of men as on a pavement with great anguish and confusion."
Suger's great innovation in the church was the replacement of the heavy dividing walls in the apse and ambulatory with slender columns, so that the interior of that part of the church was filled with light. He described "A circular string of chapels, by virtue of which the whole church would shine with the wonderful and uninterrupted light of most luminous windows, pervading the interior beauty." The new architecture was full of symbolism. The twelve columns represented the twelve Apostles, and the light represented the Holy Spirit. Like many French clerics in the 12th century AD, he was a follower of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, a 6th-century mystic who equated the slightest reflection or glint with divine light. Suger's own words were carved in the nave: "For bright is that which is brightly coupled with the bright/and bright is the noble edifice which is pervaded by the new light." Following Suger's example, large stained glass windows filling the interior with mystical light became a prominent feature of Gothic architecture. Suger was the patron, not the architect. Two different architects, or master masons, were involved in the 12th-century rebuilding. Both remain anonymous but their work can be distinguished on stylistic grounds. The first, who was responsible for the initial work at the western end, favoured conventional Romanesque capitals and moulding profiles with rich and individualised detailing. His successor, who completed the western facade and upper storeys of the narthex, before going on to build the new choir, displayed a more restrained approach to decorative effects, relying on a simple repertoire of motifs, which may have proved more suitable for the lighter Gothic style that he helped to create.

First Phase: the west front (1135–1140)

Suger began his rebuilding project at the western end of St Denis, demolishing the old Carolingian facade with its single, centrally located door. He extended the old nave westwards by an additional four bays and added a massive western narthex, incorporating a new façade and three chapels on the first floor level. Another major innovation in the façade at St Denis was the way the unknown architects have chosen to emphasise the divisions between the different parts with massive vertical buttresses separating the three doorways and horizontal string-courses and window arcades clearly marking out the divisions. This clear delineation of parts was to influence subsequent west façade designs as a common theme in the development of Gothic architecture and a marked departure from the Romanesque. The overall design of the façade has an obvious resemblance to a Roman city gatehouse (an impression strengthened by the buttresses and by the crenellations around the top), which helps to emphasise the traditional notion of great churches as earthly embodiments of the Heavenly City, as described in the Book of Ezekiel. The portals themselves were sealed by gilded bronze doors, ornamented with scenes from Christ's Passion and clearly recording Suger's patronage with the following inscription;
For the glory of the church which nurtured and raised him, Suger strove for the glory of the church, Sharing with you what is yours, oh martyr Denis. He prays that by your prayers he should become a sharer in Paradise. The year when it was consecrated was the one thousand, one hundred and fortieth year of the Word.
On the lintel below the great tympanum showing the Last Judgement, beneath a carved figure of the kneeling Abbot, was inscribed the more modest plea;
Receive, stern Judge, the prayers of your Suger, Let me be mercifully numbered among your sheep.
Suger's western extension was completed in 1140 and the three new chapels in the narthex were consecrated on 9 June of that year, but the Romanesque nave between was yet unchanged. He wrote about the new narthex at the west end and chapels at the east: "Once the new rear part is joined to the part in front, the church shines with its middle part brightened. For bright is that which is brightly coupled with the bright, and bright is the noble edifice which is pervaded by the new light."

Second Phase: the new choir, 1140–1144

On completion of the west front, Abbot Suger moved on to the reconstruction of the eastern end, leaving the Carolingian nave in use. He wanted a ''choir'', the area reserved for the clergy between the nave and the apse, that would be suffused with light. To achieve his aims, Suger's masons drew on the several new elements which evolved or had been introduced to Romanesque architecture: the pointed arch, the rib vault, the ambulatory with radiating chapels, the clustered columns supporting ribs springing in different directions and the flying buttresses which enabled the insertion of large clerestory windows. It was the first time that these features had all been drawn together, and the style evolved radically from the previous Romanesque architecture by the lightness of the structure and the unusually large size of the stained glass windows. The new structure was finished and dedicated on 11 June 1144, in the presence of the King. The Abbey of St Denis thus became the prototype for further building in the royal domain of northern France. Through the rule of the Angevin dynasty, the style was introduced to England and spread throughout France, the Low Countries, Germany, Spain, northern Italy and Sicily."L'art Gothique", section: "L'architecture Gothique en Angleterre" by Ute Engel: L'Angleterre fut l'une des premieres régions à adopter, dans la deuxième moitié du XIIeme siècle, la nouvelle architecture gothique née en France. Les relations historiques entre les deux pays jouèrent un rôle prépondérant: en 1154, Henri II (1154–1189), de la dynastie Française des Plantagenêt, accéda au thrône d'Angleterre." (''England was one of the first regions to adopt, during the first half of the 12th century, the new Gothic architecture born in France. Historic relationships between the two countries played a determining role: in 1154, Henry II (1154–1189), of the French Plantagenet dynasty, ascended to the throne of England'').John Harvey, ''The Gothic World''

Reconstruction of the Nave - the Rayonnant style - beginning of the Royal Necropolis (13th century)

File:Basilica di saint Denis vetrata 01.JPG|The glazed triforium, where windows filled the entire upper walls, is a prominent feature of Rayonnant Gothic. File:Louis le Gros visiting St Denis.jpg|Louis VI of France visiting St. Denis (14th century) File:Basilica of Saint Denis North Transept Rose Window, Paris, France - Diliff.jpg|Rayhonnat rose window in the north transept Suger died in 1151 with the Gothic reconstruction incomplete. In 1231, Abbot Odo Clement began work on the rebuilding of the Carolingian nave, which remained sandwiched incongruously between Suger's Gothic works to the east and west. Both the nave and the upper parts of Suger's choir were replaced in the Rayonnant Gothic style. From the start it appears that Abbot Odo, with the approval of the Regent Blanche of Castile and her son, the young King Louis IX, planned for the new nave and its large crossing to have a much clearer focus as the French 'royal necropolis', or burial place. That plan was fulfilled in 1264 under Abbot Matthew of Vendôme when the bones of 16 former kings and queens were relocated to new tombs arranged around the crossing, eight Carolingian monarchs to the south and eight Capetians to the north. These tombs, featuring lifelike carved recumbent effigies or ''gisants'' lying on raised bases, were badly damaged during the French revolution though all but two were subsequently restored by Viollet le Duc in 1860. The dark Romanesque nave, with its thick walls and small window-openings, was rebuilt using the very latest techniques, in what is now known as Rayonnant Gothic. This new style, which differed from Suger's earlier works as much as they had differed from their Romanesque precursors, reduced the wall area to an absolute minimum. Solid masonry was replaced with vast window openings filled with brilliant stained glass (all destroyed in the Revolution) and interrupted only by the most slender of bar tracery—not only in the clerestory but also, perhaps for the first time, in the normally dark triforium level. The upper facades of the two much-enlarged transepts were filled with two spectacular 12m-wide rose windows. As with Suger's earlier rebuilding work, the identity of the architect or master mason remains unknown. Although often attributed to Pierre de Montreuil, the only evidence for his involvement is an unrelated document of 1247 which refers to him as 'a mason from Saint-Denis'.

The Valois Mortuary Chapel

A plan of circa 1700 by Félibien shows the Valois Chapel, a large mortuary chapel in the form of a domed colonnaded "rotunda", adjoining the north transept of the basilica and containing the tomb of the Valois.

St. Denis and the French Revolution

File:Friedrich Staffnick - Abbildung der Kirche St Denis in Frankreich, (...) .png|THe looting of the church in 1793, by Friedrich Staffnick File:HubertRobertViolationDesCaveauxASaintDenis.JPG|The violation of the royal tombs in 1793 depicted by Hubert Robert Due to its connections to the French monarchy and proximity to Paris, the abbey of Saint-Denis was a prime target of revolutionary vandalism. In 1793 the French Convention, the revolutionary government, ordered the violation of the sepulchres and the destruction of the royal tombs, but they agreed create a commission to select those monuments which were of historical interest for preservation. In 1798 these were transferred to the chapel of the Petit-Augustins, which later became the Museum of French Monuments. The medieval monastic buildings were demolished in 1792. Although the church itself was left standing, it was deconsecrated, its treasury confiscated and its reliquaries and liturgical furniture melted down for their metallic value. Some sobjects, including a chalice and aquamanile donated to the abbey in Suger's time, were successfully hidden and survive to this day). The jamb figures of the façade representing Old Testament royalty, mistakenly identified as images of royal French kings and queens, were removed from the portals and the tympana sculpture defaced. The church was reconsecrated by Napoléon in 1806, and he designated it as the future site for his own tomb and those of his intended dynasty.. After his downfall, the ashes of the previous King, Louis XVI, were ceremoniously moved from the cemetery of the Madeleine to Saint Denis. The last King to be entombed in Saint-Denis was Louis XVIII in 1824. In the 1860s Emperor Louis Napoleon asked Viollet-le-Duc to construct an imperial section in the crypt for him and his dynasty, but he was deposed and went into exile before it was begun.

Removal and reconstruction of the north tower

File:Saint Denis Félix Benoist 1844 1845.jpg|The left tower, completed, damaged and removed in the 1840s File:Saint-Denis (basilique) Viollet-le-Duc (projet).jpg|The two-tower plan of Viollet-le-Duc, never built In the early 1840s, cracks appeared in the north tower's masonry following several extreme weather events. A violent storm on 19 August 1845, notable for spawning a tornado, proved critical, and the tower's walls were soon found to have flexed and become dangerously unstable. With François Debret's reconstructive works, carried out after an 1837 lightning strike, proving inadequate, in February 1846 the authorities decided to "temporarily" dismantle the north tower to avoid a catastrophic collapse, with the stones stored for later reconstruction.

Proposed new tower

In December 2016, 170 years after the north tower's dismantlement and following several false starts, the Ministry of Culture again proposed its reconstruction after concluding it was technically feasible—albeit without public funding. An association, ''Suivez la flèche'' ("Follow the Spire"), chaired by Patrick Braouezec, has since been established to support the reconstruction, with the aim of raising the necessary funds by opening the reconstruction works to the general public, along the model of the Guédelon Castle. In March 2018 the culture ministry signed an accord with the association, officially launching the reconstruction project, with works expected to commence in May 2020. However, as of spring 2021, work had not begun.


The West front

File:Saint-Denis Basilique Saint-Denis Fassade 3.jpg|The west front File:Saint-Denis - Portail central.jpg|Tympanum and lintel of the central portal "Last Judgement) (c. 1135, restored 1839) File:Saint-Denis Basilique Saint-Denis Fassade 6.jpg|The west front after its cleaning The west front of the church, dedicated on 9 June 1140, is divided into three sections, each with its own entrance, representing the Holy Trinity. A crenelated parapet runs across the west front and connects the towers (still unfinished in 1140), illustrating that the church front was the symbolic entrance to the celestial Jerusalem. This new façade, wide and deep, has three portals, the central one larger than those either side, reflecting the relative width of the central nave and lateral aisles. This tripartite arrangement was clearly influenced by the late 11th-century Norman-Romanesque façades of the abbey churches of St Etienne It also shared with them a three-storey elevation and flanking towers. Only the south tower survives; the north tower was dismantled following a tornado which struck in 1846. The west front was originally decorated with a series of column-statues, representing the kings and queens of the Old Testament. These were removed in 1771 and were mostly destroyed during the French Revolution, though a number of the heads can be seen in the Musée de Cluny in Paris. The bronze doors of the central portal are modern, but are a faithful reproduction of the original doors, which depicted the Passion of Christ and the Resurrection. One other original feature was added by Suger's builders; a rose window over the central portal. Although small circular windows (oculi) within triangular tympana were common on the west facades of Italian Romanesque churches, this was probably the first example of a rose window within a square frame, which was to become a dominant feature of the Gothic facades of northern France (soon to be imitated at Chartres Cathedral and many others).

Chevet and transepts

File:Basilique Saint-Denis - Abside, côté nord-est - Saint-Denis - Médiathèque de l'architecture et du patrimoine - APMH00002668.jpg|The apse, or east end of th cathedral, in 1878 File:Basilique Saint-Denis - Façade nord - Saint-Denis - Médiathèque de l'architecture et du patrimoine - APMH00003933.jpg|North transept (left) and north nave walls and buttresses (19th c.) File:Saint-Denis Basilique Saint-Denis Südliches Querschiff 3.jpg|The Rayonnant south transept File:Saint-Denis Basilique Saint-Denis Südliches Langhaus 3.jpg|South side of the nave, with buttresses and chapels The chevet, at the east end of the cathedral, was one of the first parts of the structure rebuilt into the Gothic style. The work was commissioned by Abbot Suger in 1140 and completed in 1144. It was considerably modified under the young King Louis IX and his mother, Blanche of Castille, the Regent of the Kingdom, beginning in 1231. The apse was built much higher, along with the nave. Large flying buttresses were added to the chevet, to support the upper walls, and to make possible the enormous windows installed there. At the same time, the transept was enlarged and given large rose windows in the new rayonnant style, divided into multiple lancet windows topped by trilobe windows and other geometric forms inscribed in circles. The walls of the nave on both sides were entirely filled with windows, each composed of four lancets topped by a rose, filling the entire space above the triforium. The upper walls, like the chevet, were supported by flying buttresses whose bases were placed between the chapels alongside the nave.

North and south portals

File:Saint Denis PM 086190 F.jpg|Sculpture of the Porte de Valois, or north portal File:Basilique St Denis façade sud St Denis Seine St Denis 2.jpg|The south portal and sculpture File:Basilique St Denis façade sud St Denis Seine St Denis 4.jpg|Detail of the south portal sculpture The Porte de Valois, or north portal, was originally built in the 12th century, near the end of Suger's life, then rebuilt at the end of the north transept in the 13th century. According to Suger, the original entrance on the north did not have sculpture, but mosaic, which Suger replaced by sculpture in 1540. It is considered an important step in the history of Gothic sculpture, because of the skill of the carving, and the lack of rigidity of the figures. There are six figures in the embrasures and thirty figures in the voussures, or arches above the door, which represent Kings, probably those of the Old Testament, while the tympanum over the door illustrates the martyrdom of Saint-Denis and his companions Eleuthere and Rusticus. This portal was among the last works commissioned by Suger; he died in 1151, before it was completed. The original sculpture that was destroyed in the Revolution was replaced with sculpture from the early 19th century, made by Felix Brun. The tympanum of the south portal illustrates the last days of the Denis and his companions before their martyrdom. The piedroits are filled with medallions representing the labours of the days of month


The Nave and the choir

File:Saint-Denis (93), basilique Saint-Denis, abside 3.jpg|Rayonnant Gothic choir of St Denis. File:Basilica of Saint-Denis, Paris, interior.jpg|The nave and choir File:Saint-Denis - Basilique Saint-Denis - Nef -2.JPG|The elevation of the nave, with glass-filled triforium and upper windows File:Basilique Saint-Denis - Voûte de la croisée du transept.JPG|The vaults in the transept The nave, the portion to the west of the church reserved for ordinary worshippers, and the choir, the portion to the east reserved for the clergy, were rebuilt into the Gothic style in the 13th century, after the apse at the east and the west front. Like the other Gothic churches in the Ile-de-France, its walls had three levels; large arcades of massive pillars on the ground floor; a narrow triforium or passageway midway up the wall; originally windowless; and a row of high windows the clerestory, above. Slender columns rose from the pillars up the walls to support the four-part rib vaults. As a result of the Rayonnant reconstruction in th the triforium was given windows, and the upper walls were entirely filled with glass, which reached upward into the arches of the vaults, flooding the church with light.

The disambulatory and chapels

File:Saint-Denis (93), basilique Saint-Denis, déambulatoire 2.jpg|disambulatory File:Balisila of Saint-Denis, Paris, interior.jpg|Disambulatory and chapels File:Basilique Saint-Denis chapelle de la Vierge.jpg|The axial chapel of the Virgin (12th c.) THe chevet had been constructed by Suger in record time, in just four years, between 1140 and 1140, and was one of the first great realisations of Gothic architecture. The double disaubulatory is divided not by walls but by two rows of columns, while the outside walls, thanks to buttresses on the exterior, are filled with windows. The new system allowed light to pass into the interior of the choir. The disambulatory connects with the five radiating chapels at the east end of the cathedral, which have their own large windows. To give them greater unity, the five chapels share the same system of vaulted roofs. To make the walls between the chapels even less visible, they are masked with networks of slender columns and tracery. The apse with its two ambulatories and axial chapels was extensively rebuilt in the 12th century, to connect harmoniously with the new and larger nave, but a major effort was made to save the early Gothic features created by Suger, including the double disambulatory with its large windows. To accomplish this, four large pillars were installed in the crypt to support the upper level, and the walls of the first traverse of the sanctuary were placed at an angle to connect with the wider transept. The basilica retains stained glass of many periods (although most of the panels from Suger's time have been removed for long-term conservation and replaced with photographic transparencies), including exceptional modern glass, and a set of 12 misericords.

Crypt and Royal Tombs

File:2017 11 (Cemeteries) - St Denis.jpg|The archeological crypt (8th century) rebuilt by Suger (12th c.), now contains the simple black marble tombs of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette File:Saint-Denis (93), basilique, crypte, collatéral nord, chapiteau roman 20.jpg|Carolingian decoration from the early crypt File:Basilique Saint-Denis Dagobert tombeau.jpg|Tomb of Dagobert I, first King buried at St. Denis remade in the 13th century The role of St. Denis as the necropolis of French Kings formally began in under Hugh Capet (987-996), but several even earlier Kings already had their tombs there. The site was chosen because of the association with St. Denis, the first Bishop of Paris and founder of Christianity in France, whose grave was believed to be there {All but three of the monarchs of France from the 10th century until 1789 have their remains here. The remains of some monarchs, including Clovis I (465–511), were moved to St. Denis from other churches. The crypt beneath the church is divided into two sections; the older, or archeological crypt, is located under the transept, and was originally built in about 775 AD, when the abbey was reconstructed by Abbot Fuldiad. It had a disambulatory, passage which allowed pilgrims to circulate around the relics of Saint Denis and his companions. on display in the center. It wa lit by alternating small windows in the walls and lamps placed in niches. The crypt was rebuilt and extend eastward by Suger, The walls were decorated with blind arches, divided by columns whose capitals illustrate Biblical scenes and scenes from the life of St. Denis. Thirty-nine of the original Romanesque sixty-two capitals are still in place. Sugar constructed a new disambulatory connected with radiating chapels, During the reign of Henry IV, the central portion of this crypt was devoted the Bourbon dynasty. but the tombs themselves were simple lead coffins in wood cases. The effigies of many of the kings and queens are on their tombs, but their bodies were removed during the French Revolution. The ancient monarchs were removed in August 1793 to celebrate the revolutionary Festival of Reunion, then the Valois and Bourbon monarchs were removed to celebrate the execution of Marie Antoinette in October 1793. The bodies were dumped into three trenches and covered with lime to destroy them. Archaeologist Alexandre Lenoir saved many of the monuments by claiming them as artworks for his Museum of French Monuments. The bodies of several Plantagenet monarchs of England were likewise removed from Fontevraud Abbey during the French Revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte reopened the church in 1806, but left the royal remains in their mass graves. In 1817 the restored Bourbons ordered the mass graves to be opened, but only portions of three bodies remained intact. The remaining bones from 158 bodies were collected into an ossuary in the crypt of the church, behind marble plates bearing their names. In later years, tombs were placed along the aisles that surrounded around the choir and the nave. In the 13th century King Louis VII (Saint Louis) commissioned a number of important tombs of earlier kings and French historical figures, whose remains were collected from other churches. These included the tombs of Clovis I of Charles Martel, Constance of Castille, Pepin the Short, Robert the Pious, and Hugues Capet (which disappeared during the Revolution). The new tombs were all made in the same style and costume, with a reposing figure holding a staff, to illustrate the continuity of the French Monarchy. File:Basilique Saint-Denis Louis XII Anne de Bretagne tombeau.jpg|Tomb of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne (1515) File:Catherine de Medicis Henri II gisants basilique-Saint-Denis.jpg|Tomb of Catherine de Medici and Henry II of France (1559) File:Basilica di saint Denis urna di francesco I.JPG|Funeral urn of Francois I by sculptor Pierre Bontemps (1556) The tombs of the Renaissance expressed are theatrical and varied. The largest is that of Louis XII (died 1515) and his wife, Anne of Brittany (died 1514). It takes the form of a white marble temple filled and surrounded with figures. Inside it, the King and Queen are depicted realistically in their dying agonies, Allegorical figures seated around the temple depict the virtues of the King and Queen. On the roof of the tomb, the King and Queen are shown again, kneeling and calmly praying, celebrating their victory over death, thanks to their virtues. The monument to Henry II of France and Primatrice with sculpture on the roof depicting the King and Queen in prayer. The King places his hand on his heart illustrating his Catholic faith a period of religious conflicts. In the 19th century, following the restoration of the monarchy, [[King Louis XVIII had the remains of [[Louis XVI and [[Marie-Antoinette brought to St. Denis. The body of the [[Louis XVII of France|Dauphin, who died of illness and neglect at the hands of his revolutionary captors, was buried in an unmarked grave in a Parisian churchyard near the Temple. During Napoleon's exile in Elba, the restored Bourbons ordered a search for the corpses of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The were found on 21 January 1815, brought to Saint-Denis and placed in the archeologi crypt. Their tombs are covered with black marble slabs installed in 1975. King Louis XVIII, upon his death in 1824, was buried in the centre of the crypt, near the graves of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The coffins of royal family members who died between 1815 and 1830 were also placed in the vaults. Under the direction of architect Viollet-le-Duc,church monuments that had been taken to the Museum of French Monuments were returned to the church. The corpse of King Louis VII, who had been buried at Barbeau Abbey and whose tomb had not been touched by the revolutionaries, was brought to Saint-Denis and buried in the crypt. In 2004, the mummified heart of the Dauphin, the boy who would have been Louis XVII, verified to be authentic by DNA testing, was placed in a crystal vase and sealed into the wall of the crypt.


File:Basilique Saint-Denis - Sacristie -1.JPG|The Sacristy, rebuilt in 1812 The Sacristy, the room where the clergy traditionally donned their vestments, was transformed by the architect Jacques Cellerier in 1812 into a Neo-Gothic gallery of murals which depict scenes from the history of the cathedral. A work added to the Sacristy is "Allegory of the divine word", a painting by Simon Vouet, which originally had been commissioned by Louis XIII for the retable of the Chateau of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. It was acquired for the cathedral by administration of national monuments in 1993. The wall cases also display a selection of precious objects from the cathedral's collection.

Art and Decoration

Stained Glass

File:Vitraux Saint-Denis 190110 18.jpg|"Infance of Christ", (12th c, Axis chapel) File:France Paris St-Denis Basilica Nativity.jpg|Detail from the 12th-century Life of Christ window, Axis chapel File:Basilique Saint-Denis - Vitrail de l'Enfance du Christ - Suger.JPG|Detail of "Infance of Christ",Suger at the Feet of Christ (12th c.) Abbot Suger commissioned a large amount of stained glass for the new chevet, but only very small amount of the original glass from the time of Suger survived intact. In the 19th century it was collected by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, and was integrated into windows in the chevet. Original glass includes the figure of Suger prostrating rostrating himself at the feet of Christ, in the window called "The Childhood of Christ"; the Tree of Jesse, illustrating the genealogy of Christ, in the Axis chapel; the "Allegories of Saint Paul" and "The Life of Moses" in the fourth radiating chapel on the north; "The vision of Ezekiel under the sign of tau", originally from a group illustrating the Passion of Christ, in the fourth rayonnant chapel on the south, in the left bay and third register. Another piece of original window from Suger's time, depicting mythical Griffonsa a symbol of Paradise, is found in the second radiating chapel on the north. Other scenes which Suger described, showing the pilgrimage of Charlemagne and the Crusades, have disappeared. File:Stained glass window in the Basilica of Saint Denis, Paris, France.JPG|"Kings and Queens of France" (19th c.) File:Louis-Philippe 1837 Saint-Denis.jpg|"The visit of King Louis-Philippe to Saint-Denis in 1837" Much of the current stained glass dates to the 19th century, as the church began to be restored from the damage of the Revolution. The architect François Debret designed the first Neo-Gothic windows of the nave in 1813. these include the upper windows of the nave, which represent the Kings and Queens of France. Later upper windows of the south transept depict the restoration of the church, and particularly the visit there of Louis Philippe I, the last King of France, in 1837. This large group of windows was designed by the painter Jean-Baptiste Debret, the brother of the architect.


File:Saint Denis PM 086189 F.jpg|Detail of the north portal sculpture; the martyrdom of Saint Denis, Eleuthere and Rustique (12th c.) File:Saint Denis PM 086185 F.jpg|Piedroits, or column statues, of the north portal. (12th c.) File:Gisant de Clovis Ier-Burials at the Basilica of St Denis.jpg|Tomb of Clovis I and his son, Childebert I File:Dagobert.jpg|Tomb of King Dagobert (13th century) File:Louis XVI et Marie-Antoinette.jpg|Memorial to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, sculptures (1830) by Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot File:Ermentruda kralovna.jpg|Ementrude of Orleans, wife of Charles II of France File:Saint-Denis (93), basilique, gisant de Charles V sculpté lorsqu'il avait 27 ans 1.jpg|Bust of Charles V of France File:Scène de bataille sur le tombeau de François Ier dans la basilique Saint-Denis (2).JPG|Battle scene on the tomb of Francois I (16th c.) The new west front sculpture of St. Denis had an important influence on Gothic style. The influential features of the new façade include the tall, thin statues of Old Testament prophets and kings attached to columns (''jamb figures'') flanking the portals (destroyed in 1771 but recorded in Montfaucon's drawings). These were also adopted at the cathedrals of Paris and Chartres, constructed a few years later, and became a feature of almost every Gothic portal thereafter. The statues on the portal of the Valois, on the transept of the Saint Denis, made in 1175, have very elongated and expressive figures, and also had an important effect on Gothic sculpture. They were the opposite of the more restrained and dignified figures of Chartres Cathedral, made about the same time. Above the doorways, the central tympanum was carved with Christ in Majesty displaying his wounds with the dead emerging from their tombs below. Scenes from the martyrdom of St Denis were carved above the south (right hand) portal, while above the north portal was a mosaic (lost), even though this was, as Suger put it 'contrary to the modern custom'. Of the original sculpture, very little remains, most of what is now visible being the result of rather clumsy restoration work in 1839. Some fragments of the original sculptures survive in the collection of the Musée de Cluny.

Choir stalls

File:Saint-Denis Basilique Saint-Denis Innen Chorgestühl 2.jpg|The choir stalls (16th c.) File:Saint Denis PM 086175 F.jpg|Detail of carving and marquetry of the choir stalls File:Saint Denis (93) cathédrale 2.jpg|Misericord on a choir stall The choir stalls, the seats reserved for the clergy, have particularly fine carvings, particularly on the misericord, the small seat on each stall on which the clergy could rest when standing for long periods of time. The stalls were made in the 16th century, and were originally located in the high chapel of the Chateau de Gaillon in the Eure Department. In 1805 Napoleon Bonaparte decided to create three new chapels at Saint-Denis, as well as a chapter of bishops under the authority of his uncle, Cardinal Fesch. The stalls were moved to Saint-Denis and installed for their use. Besides the carved wood, the stalls are decorated with elaborate multi-coloured religious scenes in marquetry.


File:Basilique_Saint-Denis_02.jpg|The organ of the cathedral (19th c.) File:Saint-Denis Basilique Saint-Denis Innen Orgel 4.jpg|Detail of the organ decoration The organ is located on the tribune, at the west of the nave. An organ is recorded as existing at the basilica in 1520. A later organ, made by Crespin Carlier, is recorded in 1520, but this instrument was destroyed during the French Revolution. The church re-opened in 1806 without an organ. A competition was held in 1833 to find a new builder. It was won by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, age twenty-three, and was his first organ. It was completed in 1843, and launched his career as an organ-maker. It contains numerous innovations introduced in the romantic area, in particular the very first Barker lever. With three manuals and pedals, it is protected by the Monument historique label. It was restored in 1901 by Charles Mutin, and between 1983 and 1987 by Jean-Loup Boisseau and Bertrand Cattiaux. Pierre Pincemaille, sole titular organist for 30 years (between 1987 and 2018), held many recitals (between 1989 and 1995, then between 2014 and 2017), and recorded eight CDs using this instrument.


The cathedral contained a extensive treasury, mainly constituted by the Abbot Suger. It contained crowns (those of Charlemagne, Saint Louis, and Henry IV of France), a cross, and liturgic objects.


At top are Effigies on the tomb of Henry II and Catherine de' Medici, carved by [[Germain PilonKnecht, 227. Henry's gesture is now unclear, since a [[missal, resting on a [[prie-dieu (prayer desk), was removed from the sculpture during the French revolution and melted down.


All but three of the Kings of France were buried in the basilica (with Louis XI, Charles X, & Louis Philippe I buried elsewhere), as well as a few other monarchs. The remains of the early monarchs were removed from the destroyed Abbey of St Genevieve. Some of the more prominent monarchs buried in the basilica are: * Clovis I (466–511) * Childebert I (496–558) * Aregund (515/520–580) * Fredegund (third wife of Chilperic I), (died 597) * Dagobert I (603–639) * Clovis II (634–657) * Charles Martel (686–741) * Pepin the Short (714–768) and his wife, Bertrada of Laon (born 710–727, died 783) * Carloman I (751–771) * Charles the Bald (823–877) (his brass monument was melted down during the Revolution) and his first wife, Ermentrude of Orléans (823–869) * Carloman II (866–884) * Robert II of France (972–1031) and his third wife, Constance of Arles (986–1032) * Henry I of France (1008–1060) * Louis VI of France (1081–1137) * Louis VII of France (1120–1180) and his second wife, Constance of Castile (1140–1160) * Philip II of France (1165–1223) * St. Louis IX of France (1214–1270) * Charles I of Naples (1227–1285), an effigy covers his heart burial * Philip III of France (1245–1285) and his first wife, Isabella of Aragon, Queen of France (1248–1271) * Philip IV of France (1268–1314) * Leo V, King of Armenia (1342–1393) * Charles VII, King of France (1403–1461) * Charles VIII, King of France (1470–1498) * Louis XII of France (1462–1515) * Francis I of France (1494–1547) * Henry II (1519–1559) and Catherine de' Medici (1519–1589) * Francis II (1544–1560) * Charles IX (1550–1574) (no monument) * Henry III (1551–1589), also King of Poland (heart burial monument) * Henry IV (1553–1610) * Louis XIII (1601–1643) * Louis XIV (1638–1715) * Louis XV (1710–1774) * Louis XVI (1754–1793) and Marie Antoinette (1755–1793) * Louis XVII (1785–1795) (only his heart; his body was dumped into a mass grave) * Louis XVIII (1755–1824)

Other royalty and nobility

* Blanche of France (daughter of Philip IV) * Nicolas Henri, Duke of Orléans (1607–1611), son of Henry IV * Gaston, Duke of Orléans (1608–1660), son of Henry IV ** Marie de Bourbon, Duchess of Montpensier (1605–1627), wife of Gaston ** Marguerite of Lorraine (1615–1672), Duchess of Orléans and second wife of Gaston ** Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans (1627–1693), ''la Grande Mademoiselle'' ** Marguerite Louise d'Orléans (1645–1721), Grand Duchess of Tuscany ** Jean Gaston d'Orléans (1650–1652), Duke of Valois ** Marie Anne d'Orléans (1652–1656), Mademoiselle de Chartres * Henrietta Maria of France (1609–1669), wife of Charles I of Scotland and England * Philippe I, Duke of Orléans (1640–1701), brother of Louis XIV ** Princess Henrietta of England (1644–1670), first wife of Philippe ** Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate (1652–1722), second wife of Philippe * Maria Theresa of Spain (1638–1683), consort of Louis XIV ** Louis of France (1661–1711), ''le Grand Dauphin'' ** Maria Anna Victoria of Bavaria (1660–1690), Dauphin of France, wife of Louis ** Princess Anne Élisabeth of France (1662), daughter of Louis XIV ** Princess Marie Anne of France (1664), daughter of Louis XIV ** Marie Thérèse of France (1667–1672), daughter of Louis XIV ** Philippe Charles, Duke of Anjou (1668–1671), Duke of Anjou, son of Louis XIV ** Louis François of France (1672), Duke of Anjou, son of Louis XIV * Philippe II, Duke of Orléans (1674–1723), Regent of France * Louis of France (1682–1712), Duke of Burgundy ** Marie Adélaïde of Savoy (1685–1712), Duchess of Burgundy ** Louis of France (1704–1705), Duke of Brittany ** Louis of France (1707–1712), Duke of Brittany * Charles of France (1686–1714), Duke of Berry ** Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans (1695–1719), Duchess of Berry ** Na (not baptized) d'Alençon (1711) ** Charles d'Alençon(1713) Duke of Alençon ** Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Alençon (1714) * Marie Leszczyńska (1703–1768), consort of Louis XV ** Louise Élisabeth of France (1727–1759), Duchess of Parma ** Henriette of France (1727–1752), daughter of Louis XV and twin of the above ** Louise of France (1728–1733), daughter of Louis XV ** Louis of France (1729–1765), Dauphin of France *** Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain (1726–1746), first wife of above *** Maria Josepha of Saxony (1731–1767), second wife of Louis ** Philippe of France (1730–1733), Duke of Anjou ** Princess Marie Adélaïde of France (1732–1800), daughter of Louis XV ** Princess Victoire of France (1733–1799), daughter of Louis XV ** Princess Sophie of France (1734–1782), daughter of Louis XV ** Princess Louise of France (1737–1787), daughter of Louis XV, ** Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France (1781–1789), first son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette ** Princess Sophie Hélène Béatrice of France (1786–1787), second daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette * Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne (1611–1675), Maréchal General de France.


File:SaintDenisInterior.jpg|The choir at sunset File:St Denis Choir Glass.jpg|The clerestory windows File:France Paris St-Denis Trinity.jpg|Depiction of the Trinity over the main entrance File:SaintFulrade.jpg|Fulrad, Abbot of Saint-Denis


See also

*Early Gothic architecture *Gothic cathedrals and churches *Cathedral diagram *Martyrium of Saint Denis, Montmartre *List of Gothic Cathedrals in Europe *French Gothic stained glass windows

References and sources

References Sources *Félibien, Michel. 1973. ''Histoire de l'abbaye royale de Saint-Denys en France: Lettre-préf. de M. le Duc de Bauffremont''. Introd. de Hervé Pinoteau. 1. achdr. d. Ausg. Paris, 1706 – 1973. – 524 S. Paris: Éd. du Palais Royal. *''Saint-Denis Cathedral'', Alain Erlande-Brandenburg, Editions Ouest-France, Rennes


*Gerson, Paula Lieber. (1986).
Abbot Suger and Saint-Denis: a symposium
', New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. * Martindale, Andrew, ''Gothic Art'', (1967), Thames and Hudson (in English and French); *Conrad Rudolph, ''Artistic Change at St-Denis: Abbot Suger's Program and the Early Twelfth-Century Controversy over Art'' (1990) *Conrad Rudolph, "Inventing the Gothic Portal: Suger, Hugh of Saint Victor, and the Construction of a New Public Art at Saint-Denis," ''Art History'' 33 (2010) 568–595 * * *Conrad Rudolph, "Inventing the Exegetical Stained-Glass Window: Suger, Hugh, and a New Elite Art," ''Art Bulletin'' 93 (2011) 399–422 * *Watson, Bruce, ''Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age'', (London and NY: Bloomsbury, 2016).

External links

Detailed list of members of the French Royal families buried in Saint-Denis Basilica
*ttp://www.linternaute.com/sortir/patrimoine/ile-de-france/seine-saint-denis/edifices-religieux/basilique-saint-denis/1.shtml ''L'Internaute'' Magazine: Diaporama
Satellite image from Google Maps

history and pictures of the Basilica

The Sumner McKnight Crosby Papers
from The Cloisters Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. {{DEFAULTSORT:Basilica Of Saint-Denis Category:Buildings and structures completed in 1144 Category:12th-century Roman Catholic church buildings in France Category:Official historical monuments of France Category:Churches in Seine-Saint-Denis Saint-Denis Category:Benedictine monasteries in France Category:Basilica churches in France Category:Monuments historiques of Île-de-France Category:Gothic architecture in Paris Category:Burial sites of the House of Évreux Category:Burial sites of the House of Albret Category:Burial sites of the House of Champagne Category:Burial sites of the House of Valois-Anjou Category:Burial sites of the House of Hainaut Category:Burial sites of the House of Valois-Angoulême Category:Burial sites of the House of Valois-Orléans Category:Burial sites of the House of Valois Category:Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis Category:Monuments of the Centre des monuments nationaux Category:Burial sites of the House of Bourbon Category:Burial sites of the Merovingian dynasty