Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Basilica of Saint Denis

When our son was just four years old we were up at the Square Suzanne Buisson on Avenue Junot. He was getting cross about something so I tried to distract him by pointing out the statue of Saint Denis who stands in the park, a sad looking stone figure carrying his own head. The story goes, that Saint Denis was beheaded in Montmartre in 272AD and then carried his head 10kms north of Paris where he eventually died.

A grisly tale indeed, and one I instantly regretted trying to distract our son with. He became inconsolable, and wailed and sobbed and howled for over half an hour ..."But WHY did they cut off his head. WHY did no one save him. Is he REALLY dead?..." 

A shrine was built at the spot where Saint Denis finally died and this later became the site of the Abbey of Saint Denis. The Basilica of Saint Denis now stands here, a huge Cathedral that looks incongruous in the centre of what is now an otherwise unremarkable suburban town. Its' structural and decorative style is said to be one of the first true examples of Gothic architecture that became an inspiration for other churches built in Northern France and England.

There are some magnificent stain glass windows.

It was considerably colder inside the cathedral than outside, so to keep moving we went down to the crypt. 

Nearly every French king from the 10th to the 18th Century was buried here.

The stone details are beautiful

I love this lock detail on the door as you enter the side of the church to access the crypt.

Down in the crypt there are some stain glass windows. What is unusual and impressive is that you don't need to look up at them, they are there, in front of you, to enjoy with their rich colours and intricate details.

By this stage we were all so cold it was definitely time to get some sustenance, so we headed to a cafe on the square in front of the Basilica.

You can easily visit The Basilica of Saint Denis by taking the Metro line 13 and getting out at the station 'Basilique de St. Denis'. From the Metro station there are sign posts that direct you to the Cathedral.

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