Cathedral Basilica of St Denis – Necropolis of the kings of France

Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis, Saint-Denis, Francija

Website of the Sanctuary

01 48 09 83 54

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10.00-17.15 (18.15 Summer) Sunday: 12.00-17.15

Basilica of St Denis

Thanks to the popular veneration of Saint Denis, the Basilica of St Denis very soon linked its destiny to that of the royalty.

The Basilica of St Denis became the preferred necropolis of the French monarchs, and each new dynasty continued this tradition in order to support its legitimacy. 42 kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses and 10 great men of the realm were buried here; even Napoleon I wanted to make it into an imperial necropolis.

Dagobert was the first king to be buried here. With only a very few exceptions, all the monarchs were buried here from Hugues Capet onwards. The first official histories of France were written by the monks of Saint Denis. See Top 15 Catholic shrines

Exceptional funereal art

Today the Basilica of St Denis has over 70 recumbent statues and tombs, a unique collection in Europe. This gives an idea of changes in funereal art, from 12th-century statues sculpted with open eyes to the large compositions dating from the Renaissance, associating death with the hope of resurrection. See other Catholic sites in France.

A Royal Abbey

The Basilica of St Denis stands on the site of a Gallo- Roman cemetery with the tomb of Saint Denis, thought to have been the first Bishop of Paris, who was martyred circa 250AD.


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This place of pilgrimage was built in the 5th century. Dagobert was a benefactor to it in the 7th century, and Pepin the Short was crowned king here in 754. It became one of the most powerful Benedictine abbeys in the Middle Ages. Most of the kings and queens of France were buried here from the 6th century onwards.

The birth of Gothic art

In the 12th century, Suger, Abbot of Saint Denis, was an influential political figure. He turned the abbey into a masterpiece of what came to be known as early Gothic art.

He rebuilt the structure using new architectural techniques, including the rose window* and cross-ribbed vault, bathing the building in coloured light. More work was done in the 13th century, during the reign of Saint Louis, giving the basilica its present appearance.

However the Abbey was plunged into decline by wars and the Revolution. It was restored in the 19th century, particularly by Viollet-le-Duc, before becoming a cathedral* in 1966.

The southern transept

Saint Louis’s order for 16 recumbent statues* was made in around 1263; some 14 remain today. The king wished to demonstrate that the Capetian dynasty was heir to the Merovingian and Carolingian lines.
Recumbent statues from the time of the Valois.

The statue of Charles V, the Wise, is certainly the first official portrait in the history of funeral sculpture and a masterpiece of medieval sculpture.

The tomb of François I

Claude de France and three of their children was put into place eleven years after the king’s death in 1547. The victor of the Battle of Marignan is presented in an imposing triumphal arch, a sign of the rediscovery of classical antiquity during the Renaissance.

The crypt of the Basilica of St Denis

The Bourbon chapel contains cenotaphs* made in the 19th century in honour of the Bourbon dynasty, and the heart of Louis XVII.

Suger’s crypt has several capitals devoted particularly to the life of Saint Benedict. One of the chapels in the deambulatory houses the sarcophagus of Queen Arégonde, the wife of King Clotaire, who died between 580 and 590, the first queen to be buried at Saint-Denis.

The archaeological crypt shows the remains of earlier structures. This area was the location of the tombs of the martyred Saints Denis, Rustique and Eleuthère.

The Bourbon grave holds the remains of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, transferred from the Madeleine cemetery in Paris by Louis XVIII, the last king to be buried in the basilica, in 1824.

The royal ossuary contains bones exhumed from the royal tombs at the time of the Revolution, and gathered together by Louis XVIII.

The northern transept

The upper stained glass windows, including the two rose windows, were added in the 19th century to replace the medieval stained glass windows whose lead was melted during the Revolution.

Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne are represented dead, naked and flayed inside the Carrara marble tomb, and alive and praying on the upper part.

Henri II and Catherine of Medici have a monumental tomb, built between 1560 and 1573, inspired by Italian practices, in particular the use of different colours of the same materials. The Germain Pilon sculptures, particularly the virtues in the corners, are of very high quality.

King Dagobert’s tomb is located where the monarch was buried in 639, to the right of Saint Denis’s relics.

The praying statues* of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were commissioned by Louis XVIII when the ashes of the king and queen were returned, and were completed circa 1830.

Source: www.saint-denis-basilique.fr

Exceptional funereal art

Today the basilica has over 70 recumbent statues and tombs, a unique collection in Europe. This gives an idea of changes in funereal art, from 12th-century statues sculpted with open eyes to the large compositions dating from the Renaissance, associating death with the hope of resurrection.

Opening times:

Last admission 30 mn before closing time. Closed for some religious services

FROM 2 JANUARY TO 31 MARCH

  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10.00-17.15
  • Sunday: 12.00-17.15

FROM 1ST APRIL TO 30 SEPTEMBER

  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10.00-18.15
  • Sunday: 12.00-18.15

FROM 1ST OCTOBER TO 31 DECEMBER

  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10.00-17.15
  • Sunday: 12.00-17.15

ACCESSIBILITY

  • Two parking spaces for disabled visitors 50 metres from the monument. If reserved in advance, one vehicle may be able to park within the Basilica grounds.
  • Access for disabled visitors: 70% of the tour circuit is accessible when accompanied by a monument guide. The crypt can be accessed (max. four disabled visitors at once). Access to the upper choir is not possible (15 steps).
  • Audio induction loop: loop at the ticket office reception and audio guide.
  • French sign language: visio-guide. Commentary in French sign language and French text. Fee applies.
  • For visually-impaired visitors: audio guide. Fee applies.
  • Specially-adapted tours are available for visitors with Developmental or Learning Disabilities – booking required.

Prices

FULL PRICE: 9€
REDUCED PRICE: 7€
GROUP PRICE: from 20 people – 7€
PRICE FOR SCHOOLS: 30€

FREE ADMISSION
*Under 18 (with family and excluding school groups) – 18-25 (citizens of the 27 countries of the European Union and non-European residents regularly resident in France) – Disabled people and their attendant – Jobseekers, on presentation of a jobseeker’s certificate dated within the last 6 months. ICOM Card holder.

TOUR OFFERS

  • Self guided tours with free visitors guide in French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Polish, Czech and Dutch. Free guide for children. (Length of visit: 1 hour). Booking not required.
  • Guided tours in French (length of visit: approx. 1½ hours)
  • Tour times: Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; Sundays: 12.30 and 3 p.m.
  • Wish to visit the royal necropolis ? Come and join us for guided tours for individuals at 2 pm?

Free tours, no booking required, when you pay the admission fee for the royal necropolis.  N.B. Free tours may be cancelled at short notice due to closure or for technical or staffing reasons. In busy periods, the number of people may be limited.
Enquiries on 01 48 09 83 54.

VISIT WITH AUDIO GUIDE
Price
Full price: + 4,50 €
Couple (x2): + 6 €
Grou : + 3 €
Disabled visitors: + 3 €
– 18y: + 3 €

 

The southern transept

Saint Louis’s order for 16 recumbent statues* was made in around 1263; some 14 remain today. The king wished to demonstrate that the Capetian dynasty was heir to the Merovingian and Carolingian lines.

Recumbent statues from the time of the Valois.
The statue of Charles V, the Wise, is certainly the first official portrait in the history of funeral sculpture and a masterpiece of medieval sculpture.

The tomb of François I
Claude de France and three of their children was put into place eleven years after the king’s death in 1547. The victor of the Battle of Marignan is presented in an imposing triumphal arch, a sign of the rediscovery of classical antiquity during the Renaissance.

The crypt
The Bourbon chapel contains cenotaphs* made in the 19th century in honour of the Bourbon dynasty, and the heart of Louis XVII.

Suger’s crypt has several capitals devoted particularly to the life of Saint Benedict. One of the chapels in the deambulatory houses the sarcophagus of Queen Arégonde, the wife of King Clotaire, who died between 580 and 590, the first queen to be buried at Saint-Denis.

The archaeological crypt shows the remains of earlier structures. This area was the location of the tombs of the martyred Saints Denis, Rustique and Eleuthère.

The Bourbon grave holds the remains of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, transferred from the Madeleine cemetery in Paris by Louis XVIII, the last king to be buried in the basilica, in 1824.

The royal ossuary contains bones exhumed from the royal tombs at the time of the Revolution, and gathered together by Louis XVIII.

The northern transept
The upper stained glass windows, including the two rose windows, were added in the 19th century to replace the medieval stained glass windows whose lead was melted during the Revolution.

Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne are represented dead, naked and flayed inside the Carrara marble tomb, and alive and praying on the upper part.

Henri II and Catherine of Medici have a monumental tomb, built between 1560 and 1573, inspired by Italian practices, in particular the use of different colours of the same materials. The Germain Pilon sculptures, particularly the virtues in the corners, are of very high quality.

King Dagobert’s tomb is located where the monarch was buried in 639, to the right of Saint Denis’s relics.

The chevet
Abbot Suger’s chevet, a major work built between 1140 and 1144, with the upper parts rebuilt in the 18th century, was made to present the martyred saints’ reliquaries. The absence of walls between the chapels and the large windows creates an uninterrupted wall of light.

The Merovingian kings and queens. The recumbent statues of Clovis, the first Christian Frankish king, his son Childebert, and Frédégonde, were brought here from Parisian churches in the 19th century.

These two recumbent statues are among the rare metal tombs which are preserved to this day. They are for the two children of Saint Louis who died in infancy.

Five atrium windows remain from Abbot Suger’s stained glass windows. Spared during the Revolution, they were later badly damaged and reassembled in the 19th century.

Saint Louis chapel
The banner is a copy of the standard carried by the royal army in time of war.

The praying statues* of Louis XVI and Marie- Antoinette were commissioned by Louis XVIII when the ashes of the king and queen were returned, and were completed circa 1830.

BY SUBWAY
line 13, station Basilique de Saint-Denis (without elevator).

BY CAR
Around 9 km from the center of Paris : Porte de La Chapelle, then A1, exit “Saint-Denis – centre ville”. The city center is pedestrian. Parking “Vinci”, named Basilique near the monument.

Posted in Europe, France and Top Shrines

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