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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

[Basilique Saint-Denis] French Royal Necropolis - The burial place of the French Kings

We landed in France in the morning.
Before heading to Saint Denis and Mafflier, we dropped by a "Centre Commercial" in Rugis to have lunch and get  French cell numbers for both Mr. D and me.

The first (touristic) place we visited in France this year was Basilique Saint-Denis.
As a history lover, I should have been there long time ago.
But, better late than never!

Well, like most of French cathedrals, this one was also under restoration!
Yeah. how surprising, or rather unsurprising. :(

Nevertheless, you cannot deny its medieval beauty.

The basilica was built from 1135 to 1144 in two phases.

It was a breathtakingly beautiful church.
From the portal of the basilica.

 Pablo walking through the south aisle.

Here I came, finally!
(As I said before, I love visiting cemeteries and tombs)

The entrance to the basilica is free of charge. But you have to pay the entrance fee to the necropolis and crypt.
You can see the tombs of the French kings and queens of which you read in the history books.

All but three of the Kings of France are buried in the basilica.

I am posting the photos of the tombs and crypt.

It was relatively easy to take the photos of the tombs in the necropolis since it was in the main floor of the basilica that was full of lights thanks to beautiful stained glasses.

On the other hand, as the crypt was underground and illuminated only by very very dim bulbs, photos are not so impressive.

 I'm not going to post all the photos of the tombs of the kings, queens and princes/princesses as they are too many. I only post notable ones.
The feet in the above photo are the ones of Francois I and his wife.

All the tombs are Cadaver tombs, i.e. tombs featuring an effigy in the macabre form of a decomposing corpse.

Henri II and his "even more" famous wife, Catherine de Medici.

Henri II and Catherine de Medici from a different angle :)

Henri II in an approached shot.

 Henri II (1519 - 1559) and Catherine de Medici (1519 - 1589) without crowns on their heads.

Clovis I (465 - 511)
The first King of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes~

The tomb of Clovis I was not originally set at Saint-Denis basilica, but his remains were exhumed later from the despoiled Abbey of St Genevieve.

A tomb of an unkown princess.
Besides the tombs of the French kings and queens, there also were many tombs of princes and princesses.

And this is the ultimate reason for which I visited Saint Denis Basilica.
I've always wanted to the memorial of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

The bodies of the beheaded King Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette of Austria were not initially buried in Saint-Denis. Their bodies were buried in the churchyard of the Madeleine, where they were covered with quicklime.

During Napoleon's exile in Elba, the restored Bourbons ordered a search for the corpses of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The few remains, a few bones that were presumably the king's and a clump of greyish matter containing a lady's garter, were found on January 21, 1815, brought to Saint-Denis and buried in the crypt.

Marble statues of a kneeling Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, for the ├ęglise de Saint-Denis  were commissioned by Louis XVIII in 1816 from Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot and realised in 1830.

Then we went down to the underground crypt.

 Louis XIV, the sun king.
Louis XIV's tomb didn't have a sculpture on its sarcophagus.

There also was the heart of Louis XVII, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, but as the crypt was too dark to take a decent photo.

And now here, the following would be the most important(?) tomb.

In the 7th century, on the orders of Dagobert I, the body of Saint Denis, a patron saint of France, moved to the basilica.

There is no remains of his body anymore in his tomb, but in the pit where Denis was buried , a projection of his sculpture standing in the facade of Notre-Dame de Paris.

Saint Denis, or Saint Dionysius after whom the church was named, is a Catholic saint who was bishop in Paris in the third century, but martyred during the Decian persecution under the emperor Decius. He was venerated just after his death.

Believe or not, according to the legend, Denis picked up his head beheaded in Montmartre and walked ten kilometres, preaching a sermon the entire way, to the town where he actually died. Saint Denis Basilica was built on the site and the basilia became the burial place for the kings of France.

That is why all the statues of Saint Denis are holding Saint Denis, holding his heads.
 You can read more about the basilica here:

I was very glad to have finally visited the basilica and the tombs of the French kings and queens.
If you are interested in French monarchies and their histories,
Basilique Saint-Denis would be a must place to visit.

 You can see more posts about my trip to France if you click the links below:
[Auberge Ravoux] Van Gogh's last residence in Auvers-sur-Oise

Basilique Saint Denis


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