Happy Monday travelers! I hope today’s been treating you well.

On Friday, I shared with you a couple of lovely photos of a wonderful cathedral located just outside Paris that is often overlooked by tour groups. You can see that post here in case you missed it.

Today, I’d like to share with you in greater detail the history of this marvelous building and why you shouldn’t miss it on your next educational student tour to France.

Saint Denis Basilica Cathedral is the royal necropolis to the Kings of France. That alone should be the reason you visit this historic cathedral, but if you need some more keep reading.

The basilica stands on the site of a Gallo-Roman cemetery, where the tomb of Saint Denis, thought to be the first Bishop of Paris, is said to have been buried. He was martyred circa 250 AD. It has since become a pilgrimage site when it was built at the beginning of the Middle Ages during the 5th century. It also became one of the more powerful Benedictine abbeys. From the 6th century onward, all but 3 Kings of France were laid to rest here.

In the 12th century, Suger, Abbot of Saint Denis, was a prominent political figure. He transformed the abbey into the first monumental masterpiece of Gothic art. The structure was rebuilt with new architectural methods. This included adding a rose window and cross-ribbed vault which subsequently bathed the building in beautiful colors. During the 13th century, more work was done to the building giving it its present-day appearance. Sadly, the basilica fell into decay during the wars and French Revolution. Viollet-le-Duc restored it in the 19th century, and in 1966, it became a cathedral.

With the admiration the monarchy held for Saint Denis, it quickly became the basilica of the royals. It became the favored necropolis of the French monarchs, and each new dynasty carried out the tradition to support its legitimacy. 42 kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses, and 10 great men of the realm were buried here. The building it truly impressive, and knowing you’re standing next to French royalty is an experience like none other. What’s even more impressive is the funeral art.

The basilica has over 70 sculpted recumbent statues and tombs making it the most unique collection in all of Europe. The first official histories of France were even written by the monks of Saint Denis. Students and educators will not only gain a wealth of knowledge while visiting Saint Denis, but they’ll gain memories to last them a lifetime. On your next educational tour to France be sure to venture outside Paris and visit this one-of-a-kind cathedral.

Until next time,