Basilique St-Denis

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North of the centre

Legend has it that when St Denis was beheaded, he picked up his noggin and walked with it to Vicus Catulliacus (now St-Denis) to be buried. The first church, parts of which can be seen in the crypt, was built over his tomb in around 475. The present edifice was begun in the 1130s by Abbot Suger, the powerful minister of Louis VI and Louis VII. It is considered the first example of Gothic architecture, uniting the elements of pointed arches, ogival vaulting and flying buttresses. In the 13th century, master mason Pierre de Montreuil erected the spire and rebuilt the choir nave and transept. St-Denis was the burial place for all but three French monarchs between 996 and the end of the ancien régime, so the ambulatory is a museum of French funerary sculpture. It includes a fanciful Gothic tomb for Dagobert, the austere effigy of Charles V, and the sculpted Renaissance tomb of Louis XII and his wife Anne de Bretagne. In 1792 these tombs were desecrated, and the royal remains thrown into a pit.

Venue name: Basilique St-Denis
Address: 1 rue de la Légion d'Honneur
Opening hours: Apr-Sept 10am-6.15pm Mon-Sat; noon-6.15pm Sun. Oct-Mar 10am-5.15pm Mon-Sat; noon-5.15pm Sun. Tours 10.30am, 3pm Mon-Sat; 12.15pm, 3pm Sun
Transport: Métro line 13 to Basilique St-Dénis
Price: €7.50; €4.50 reductions; free under-18s. PMP
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