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The site of the basilica was formerly a Roman cemetary. The first church was started in 475 AD. In 636 AD Dagobert I, king of the Franks ordered the relics of St Denis to be transferred to the church and formed it as an abbey. St Denis was the first Bishop of Paris. He was beheaded for refusing to deny his faith. He is said to have carried his head from Montmartre near the present Sacre Couer to the current location of the basilica where he wished to be buried.
The choir as it now stands was completed in 1144 AD. The nave was redesigned in the 13th century. During the revolution all of the abbey was destroyed except for the church. That was ransacked, severely damaged and the tombs were desecrated. The church underwent a massive restoration during the 19th century during the restoration of the monarchy when the damaged tombs were also repaired. If you look closely at the photos of some of the tombs, you will see marks of the repairs.
The basisilica has been the burial place of almost all kings and queens of France from the 10th to the 18th centuries. It has also been the site of the coronation of almost all of the queens during that time as well. Kings were usually crowned in Reims. When the basilica was restored, many bodies of monarchs who had not been buried in St Denis were moved there and memorials erected to them. An example of this is King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antionette of Let them eat cake fame, who were both guillotined during the revolution.
The craftsmanship of all of the bsilica has been done to an extremely high level and is very impressive. Many of the statues are very life like and sculted to the finest detail. If you can ever visit, you should. You will not regret it.
|Cathedrals in England||Bury St Edmunds,Canterbury, Rochester,Tewkesbury|
|Cathedrals elsewhere||Joan of Arc, Lourdes, Rouen|