Saint-Denis Cathedral, is a veritable cradle of French history, It houses the tombs of all the Kings and Queens of France.

Saint-Denis Cathedral

A strange legend

Clovis I, Dagobert, Charles Martel, Catherine de Medici, Henri IV, Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette… 42 kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and 10 servants were buried there until the 19th century in the Basilica. A legend tells that Saint-Denis, a Christian missionary, died martyred by the Romans who would have cut off his head on the Butte Montmartre, and would have walked head under the arm of Montmartre to the current location of the basilica. This legend is at the origin of the many representations of Saint Denis carrying his head in his hands, as well as the name of the Rue des Martyrs in Montmartre. The tomb of Saint-Denis quickly became the object of a cult. Between 450 and 475, Sainte Geneviève, patron saint of Paris, decided to build a chapel on this site.

Saint-Denis Cathedral
the legend of Saint-Denis

Built in the 7th century

Thus, a new church was built at the beginning of the 7th century, Dagobert was the first king of the Franks to be buried there and Saint-Denis became one of the most powerful Benedictine abbeys of the Middle Ages. Built over the tomb of Saint Denis, the basilica of Saint-Denis gradually became a royal necropolis hosting the final resting place of the kings and queens of France. This particularity makes Saint-Denis a real museum of funerary sculpture from the 12th to the 16th century, bringing together a collection unique in Europe. In total, the Basilica-Cathedral of Saint-Denis contains the graves of 43 kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses and 10 servants of the monarchy. Among the great figures in the history of France, there is of course King Dagobert, who in 639 became the first king to be buried in the basilica. He is considered the founder of the abbey. But also Isabella of Aragon, wife of Philip III the Bold, whose tomb fascinates with its realism.

Catherine de Medici erected a rotunda for her family

There is also the tomb of François 1er, his wife Claude de France, and three of their children. But also that of Catherine de Medici, who erected a huge rotunda 30 meters in diameter, intended to accommodate the graves of her family. The Basilica-Cathedral of Saint-Denis thus constitutes the most important set of funerary sculptures in Europe with more than 70 recumbent effigies and monumental tombs. High place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages, built on the tomb of Saint Denis, the Basilica was raised to the rank of cathedral in 1966, during the creation of the diocese of Seine-Saint-Denis.

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