The Cathedral of Saint-Denis

On the morning of Wednesday, July 16, 2014 we departed Cabourg and Normandy for Saint-Denis Cathedral, one of the most famous cathedrals in France. One of the first Gothic cathedrals in the world, and the burial place for France’s royalty, the cathedral at Saint-Denis is arguably one of the most important Catholic buildings in all of France. The architecture is amazing with a wonderful sense of space, scale and serenity, and inside are the ornate tombs of many French kings and Queens from the 10th to the 18th century. Beautifully restored, and reverently displayed, the site is a little off the beaten tourist track and so we were able to enjoy the trip without having to deal with the crowds one finds at cathedrals such as Notre Dame in central Paris. There’s a lot of history in this place, and it was a thrill to stand within 10 feet of the mortal remains of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

The Basilique Royal de Saint-Denis is the burial place of French royalty in Paris. It is a necropolis, a stunning edifice to the dead, full of hauntingly beautiful funeral sculptures, mausoleums, and tombs.

The Basilique Royal de Saint-Denis is the burial place of French royalty in Paris. It is a necropolis, a stunning edifice to the dead, full of hauntingly beautiful funeral sculptures, mausoleums, and tombs.

It is here that tourists can view the encased, dried-up heart of Louis XVIII. In total 42 kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses lie here. With more than 70 Renaissance tombs, the royal necropolis of the Basilique Royal de Saint-Denis asserts itself today as the most important group of funerary sculptures from the 12th to the 16th centuries.

The cathedral is built on the site of a Roman cemetery and the burial site of the martyr Denis, who was said to have walked through Paris carrying his own head. Many books have been written about the architecture of the building itself. This great historic building is something of a mecca for stained glass aficionados too, containing as it does, some of the finest examples of medieval stained-glass in the world.

The video which follows provides some insights into the Gothic architecture of the cathedral, and it has some great shots of one of the most beautiful churches in all of Europe.

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