St. Denis: A History


St. Denis: A Basilica of Kings

Outside of Paris is a suburb called St. Denis. This suburb is home to a basilica with a lot of history. It is believed to be a site of a miracle, and since that miracle, many kings and queens have been buried within the church. So here is a little history on one of the most interesting churches in Paris.

Story of St. Denis

St. Denis is considered the patron saint of France and it is said that when he was decapitated in Montmartre, and then he walked, headless, all the way to the area where he wanted to be buried. That area today is the Basilica of St. Denis.

Statue of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI

The Church Began in the 7th Century

While it may look very different today, if you go into the crypt, you can see some of the original form of the church in the ruins. Although no one can find the body of St. Denis, the first church, the one built in the 7th century, is built on a grave and the location of the miracle.

The First Gothic Church

What makes this church so important architecturally, it is that this is believed to be the first church in the gothic style. This gothic style can be found all over France, so it is interesting to know where it all started.

Stained Glass Above Louis XIV's Tomb

It Had Two Towers

The basilica originally had two towers, one similar to that of Chartres. But in the late 1700s the northern tower was struck by lightening. They took down the tower because its near destruction was a safety hazard for the church and the people around.

It is a Burial Site

Clovis, Louis XIV, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Charles Martel. All of these French rulers are buried here in the church. So many kings and nobility were buried in this location, you are constantly walking around sarcophagi of kings to get around the church. Some were buried here immediately after their death, some like Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were moved a few years after they died to this location.

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