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St-Denis Basilica, Paris

Photo © Etienne Boucher. View all images in our St-Denis Basilica Photo Gallery.
Photo © Nick Leonard.
Photo © Nick Leonard.
Photo © Nick Leonard.
Photo © Steve Calcott.
Photo © Andrew Gainer.

The Basilica of Saint Denis (Basilique Saint-Denis) is an important Catholic basilica located in Saint Denis, a northern suburb of Paris.

Saint-Denis is notable for its Gothic architecture and for being the burial site of French monarchs, which makes it comparable to Westminster Abbey in England.


Saint Denis is the patron saint of France and, according to legend, the first bishop of Paris. A simple shrine was originally erected at his burial place.

There Dagobert I, king of the Franks, who reigned from 628 to 637, founded the Abbey of Saint Denis, attached to a Benedictine monastery.

The Gothic structure that stands today was begun in 1136 by Abbot Suger and not completed until the end of the 13th century. The church is an architectural landmark, part of which is considered to be the first major structure built in the Gothic style.

The Abbey of Saint Denis was the burial site of the kings of France for centuries and has thus been referred to as the "royal necropolis of France." All but three of the monarchs of France from the 10th century until 1789 have their remains here. The abbey church contains some fine examples of cadaver tombs.

The effigies of many of the kings and queens are on their tombs, but during the French Revolution, these tombs were opened by workers under orders from revolutionary officials. The bodies were removed and dumped in two large pits nearby.

Archaeologist Alexandre Lenoir saved many of the monuments from the same revolutionary officials by claiming them as artworks for his Museum of French Monuments.

Napoleon Bonaparte reopened the church in 1806, but the royal remains were left in their mass graves. Following Napoleon's first exile to Elba, the Bourbons briefly returned to power. They ordered a search for the corpses of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, which were found on January 21, 1815 and brought to St. Denis and buried in the crypt.

In 1817, the mass graves containing all the other remains were opened but it was impossible to distinguish any one from the collection of bones. The remains were thus placed in an ossuary in the crypt, behind two marble plates with the name of each monarch.

What to See

The façade of Saint-Denis has a rose window and a crenellated parapet on top similar to the fortifications of a castle.

The lovely stained-glass windows, in mauve, purple, blue, and rose, were restored in the 19th century.

Quick Facts on St-Denis Basilica

Site Information
Names:Basilica of St-Denis; Basilique St-Denis; Saint-Denis; St-Denis; St-Denis, Paris
Faiths:Christianity; Catholic
Feat:Medieval Stained Glass
Dates:Begun 1136
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Paris, France
Coordinates:48.935406° N, 2.359899° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of St-Denis Basilica

Below is a location map and aerial view of St-Denis Basilica. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.


  1. Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis - Centre des Monuments Nationaux
  2. Cathedral Basilica of St Denis - Seine-Saint-Denis Tourism Committee
  3. Basilique St-Denis - Frommer's Attraction Review
  4. Basilique de St-Denis - Fodor's Online Travel Guide
  5. Abbey of Saint-Denis - Catholic Encyclopedia (1912)

More Information

Article Info

Title:St-Denis Basilica, Paris
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:10/29/2009
Link code:<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/paris-st-denis">St-Denis Basilica, Paris</a>