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“From a Headless saint to naked Kings- France's Cathedral of History”

Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis
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Ranked #1 of 15 things to do in Saint-Denis
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Owner description: The earliest masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, a royal abbey and major pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages, the Basilica Cathedral assumed its principal role as the burial place for the kings of France as early as the 6th century. Despite being ransacked during the Revolution, the basilica houses over seventy royal tombs including those of Dagobert, François I, Catherine de Medicis and Louis XVI. Open:> 1st April to 30th September: Monday to Saturday: from 10 a.m. to 6.15 p.m. ; Sunday: from noon to 6.15 p.m.> 1st October to 31st March: Monday to Saturday: from 10 a.m. to 5.15 p.m. ; Sunday: from noon to 5.15 p.m. Last admission 30 minutes before closing time. Closed:> 1st January, 1st May and 25th December.> During some masses. Admission fees: Adults : 7,5€; Concessions (18 to 25) = 4,50 €; Free admission: minors under 18*; Free admission: 18-25 years old* (citizens of one of the 27 countries of the EU or are non-European permanent residents of France) * excluding school groups
Reviewed October 9, 2012

Saint Denis (Dionysius in Latin) was a Bishop who was martyred at Montmartre (The Hill of Martyrs) in the 3rd Century AD. The legend is that he picked up his head and walked about 10km to the north and was buried in an early church below where now stands the great Basilica of St Denis. You can see him, the patron saint of Paris, flanked by two angels on the great west portal of Notre Dame. Above the tomb of St Denis developed the first great Gothic Cathedral, built by the remarkable Abbot Suger between 1130 and 1140- and the inspiration for the later cathedrals of Notre Dame, Chartres, Canterbury (1174) and York (1250). One of Suger's innovations was the Chevet- a raised area above and behind the High Altar, and from here you can see one of the windows which shows him prostrate at the feet of the Virgin Mary. St Denis became the burial place for the Kings of France from its earliest days. One of these was Dagobert (603-639) who having lived a life of very doubtful morality, hoped by being laid to rest close to St Denis, nevertheless to get to heaven! Around 1250 a wonderful monument was built to him. The devils try to drag Dagobert's naked soul to hell, but in the nick of time, St Denis comes to the rescue and leads Dagobert upwards to Paradise! The theme of royal nudity is maintained on many of the tomb effigies- even the splendid Francis 1st (of the Field of the Cloth of Gold), is portrayed as naked as he was born, with but a wisp of stone cloth to preserve the royal modesty. This is a truly wonderful place, and your visit is much enriched by the excellent Audio Guide. The quickest way to get there is on the fast RER Line D which runs through Chatelet-Les Halles and Gard du Nord and get off at Gare St Denis and then take the tram for 3 stops to Basilique de St Denis.

6  Thank Julian1943
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"gothic architecture"
in 40 reviews
"french history"
in 39 reviews
"french kings"
in 35 reviews
"stained glass"
in 34 reviews
"burial place"
in 29 reviews
"buried here"
in 29 reviews
"audio guide"
in 23 reviews
"royal tombs"
in 16 reviews
"metro line"
in 23 reviews
"his head"
in 14 reviews
"basilica cathedral"
in 16 reviews
"central paris"
in 18 reviews
"final resting place"
in 10 reviews
"well worth the visit"
in 8 reviews
"worth the trip"
in 12 reviews
"middle ages"
in 7 reviews
"kings queens"
in 7 reviews

305 - 309 of 1,099 reviews

Reviewed August 26, 2012

You need to know and have time here ! There are a lot restaurants and bars here. The momentum is impressive but you will find it densely populated with the bustle of Paris

1  Thank DUKET
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 14, 2012

St. Denis is a long metro ride from the center and there are few other tourists in the area. The interior is large and open, and unlike Notre-Dame, quiet and nearly empty of tourists. Take your time and see the crypt. Intentional damage caused during the French Revolution is well hidden, but most of the tombs are empty, with all remains that could be found after later excavations removed to an ossuary in crypt. The artwork is impressive, as well as the history, with names including Charles Martel and Marie Antoinette present here. Walk around the outside of St. Denis for a view of architecture.

2  Thank JK01
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 14, 2012

We had visited the Cathedral at Reims where France crowned its royalty . We viewed it in the rain while drinking champagne across the square, but we had not seen the burial site for the same royalty. We had tried to get to St. Denis several times on the Metro, but always got into a mob at one transfer point or another and simply gave up. This trip we used our brains and went on a Sunday morning, and figured out a route through major subway and train stations to the Basilica St. Denis stop. On Sunday mornings there is a market near the subway exit on the way to the basilica, but the mobs were not present. It was worth the trip and we had the Cathedral to ourselves. The stained glass is stunning as is the architecture, but the crypt is worth the whole day. Although the royalty was not originally buried at St. Denis, the tombs were gathered and moved there in fairly recent history. If they are organized in any fashion, it was not obvious, but the number and detail were overwhelming. in America, we vaguely know of Louis XIV through Louis XVI, but have less awareness of the first thirteen. And there wives are given a fair shake also. You would do well to bring a short French Who's Who to sort out who you are looking at. Be sure to look at the ornamental columns with reliquaries on the top. The organ is supposed to be one of the best in the worls and there is supposed to be an organ concert on Sunday's around eleven. The crypt opens around 12, but check before you go.

3  Thank Truffle4_12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 26, 2012

Our visit to St. Denis was a highlight of the trip to Paris. I knew it was the first gothic cathedral and some of its history from my college Art History professors. I did NOT know it was also the place for burial crypts of the French royalty dating back 1000s of years. Fascinating. The artwork on the tombs was incredible. Absolutely incredible.

What amazed us in addition to the dizzying displays of architecture, art, and history, was the fact that so few people we there? Why not?! Our next destination was Sacre Coeur and, while stunning itself and in a lovely viewing location, it has none of the history or ancient grandeur to offer.

One downside to the exhibits at St. Denis is a lack of translated materials. There are some but they are very pared down and scanty, even in English, and especially in other languages. If you plan to go, do yourself a favor and read up on St. Denis, gothic cathedrals, and French royal history beforehand so that you can truly appreciate the experience. I also highly recommend seeing a PBS NOVA documentary called Building The Great Cathedrals - the significance of St. Denis will be made evident to you and you'll really love seeing it in person.

7  Thank TheMcNomads
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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