Saint-Denis Things to Do

  • South Transept Rose window - St. Denis
    South Transept Rose window - St. Denis
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  • St. Denis
    St. Denis
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Most Recent Things to Do in Saint-Denis

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    TOMB OF ISABELLE d'ARAGON

    by balhannah Updated Mar 15, 2013

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    Isabelle d'Aragon on left

    Lying down is Isabelle d'Aragon, wife of Philippe III (the Bold)
    Poor Isabelle met her death early. Isabelle, who was pregnant at the time, was returning from a crusade when she had the misfortune to die when crossing ford.
    Her tomb from the late XIIIth century was the beginning of a style of which there are many in the Basilica. Once again, the tomb is realistic in its depiction of the flowing folds of her clothing. White marble, formerly highlighted in different colours, is on a black marble plinth on which is carved a rhyming epitaph in French.
    The monument is the only one that was left intact during the Revolution, thanks to its fine non-religious inscription.

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    TOMB OF LOUIS X11 & ANNE DE BRETAGNE

    by balhannah Updated Mar 15, 2013

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    This is what I wanted to see!

    One I really liked was of Louis XII [1515] and Anne de Bretagne [1514], lying together in a magnificent marble Tomb. Have a good look at their abdomens, for it has been made to look like it has been sewn-up after removing their internal organs.
    Louis XII was King of France from 1498 to 1515, and Anne was his second wife. Hard to imagine anybody dying of a kidney stone attack these days, but that is exactly what Anne died of at the Chateau of Blois in the winter of 1513–1514. Her funeral was lasted 40 days!
    According to her will, her heart was placed in a raised enamel gold reliquary, then transported to Nantes to be deposited in the vault of the Carmelite friars, in the tomb made for her parents. It has been in the Dobree Museum since 1896.

    This Mausoleum, was a smallish, antique-style temple, surrounded by the twelve Apostles and the four cardinal virtues, Prudence, Might, Justice and Temperance, and around the base are battle scenes illustrating the final victory of the Sovereigns over death by means of their virtues, which are portrayed at each corner in the form of allegorical figures.
    On the upper level, the kneeling sovereigns pray for the life to come. This double image of the sovereigns’ bodies is intended to be, for Christians, an invitation to meditate on death and the Resurrection.

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    BASILICA - CENTRAL PORTAL

    by balhannah Updated Mar 15, 2013

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    I came to see the Basilica, why on earth didn't I take a photo of the outside......I have no idea, although I think I remember my battery was going flat!
    I did take photo's of some things, and one I am pleased I did, was the magnificent old door in the Central Portal.
    This isn't the original from 1140, when the portal's were adorned with a series of statues of the Old Kings and Queens of the Old Testament, those that survived are on display at the Musee National du Moyen Age in Paris. I was looking at the 'new' from 1771, still "old in my eyes!"

    The Central Portal depicts the Last Judgement.
    The tympanum features Christ the Judge, surrounded by the Apostles and the Angels. Look to the lower scene, this portrays the Resurection of the Dead. The Judgment continues on the inner arching. Look to the right, and you will see "hellish" scenes, look to the left, and it's "paradise."
    What a wonderful old door, so full of character, I hope it stays around for a long time!

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    HIGH GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE

    by balhannah Written Mar 13, 2013

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    Inside St. Denis
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    I was in awe when I walked into this Basilica. It wasn't just the Tombs and the enormous amount of stained glass windows, it was the height of the inside! I had previously been to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and thought that was pretty amazing, well, in my eyes, this is just as good or better!
    No wonder the architecture is outstanding, as the principal architect also worked on Notre Dame in Paris. This style of architecture draws your eye upwards from the base of the pillar to the beginning of the vaulting of the roof and therefore the 28 metres height of the roof appears to be much greater. The sheer size of the buildings was the result of the rapid advance in construction techniques. Some parts of the Basilica are not the same. In 1836, the steeple on the north tower, which rose to a height of 86 metres, was struck by lightening, then was rebuilt only to be taken down again because of cracks in the masonry.

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    THE STAINED GLASS WINDOWS

    by balhannah Written Mar 13, 2013

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    St. Denis
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    St. Denis hasn't faired that well over the years. Tombs have been destroyed, and only 5 windows remain from the 12th century windows.

    I found it interesting to read, that this Basilica recruited the services of a master stained-glass maker to maintain the windows, this was extremely rare!
    The stained-glass windows apparently cost more than the stone building itself.

    The west facade has scenes from the Old Testament. The Lady chapel features the theme of the Jesse Tree, which remained famous throughout the Middle Ages. The stained-glass windows on the upper parts of the building were created in the 19th century. The medieval glass of the upper windows had been destroyed during the Revolution in order to recover the lead.
    In the upper parts of the choir, the windows tell the story of Saint Denis and several episodes in the history of the Basilica. In the nave, the long gallery of kings and queens ends in two huge rose windows.
    Coloured glass was a very rare commodity in medieval times. Saint Bernard compared it to the Virgin Mary, saying the light passes through the windows just like the Virgin gave life to Jesus while remaining pure.
    The windows are stunning!

    My photo's aren't the best, but you will get the idea.

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    FRANCOIS 1 & CLAUDE DE FRANCE

    by balhannah Written Mar 13, 2013

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    Francois 1 & Claude De France

    This Tomb is another extravagant one, made out of marble and it has a Triumphal Arch.
    Francois I, King of France from 1515 to 1547, and his first wife Claude de France and three of their children, are in this Tomb from1558.
    It was Henri II, the son of the deceased king, who commissioned the tomb. At the base, is a bas-relief tracing the 1515 battle, which took place near Milan. It details several episodes: the preparations, the crossing of the Alps and the confrontation of the two armies. Francois I can be seen as a Knight on horseback, recognizable by the monogram F on the saddle of his horse. Beside him, is Baillard the knight facing a coalition made up of Italians, the pope’s troops and Swiss forces.
    Inside the tomb, the royal couple are depicted life-size just as they were. Francois I was almost two metres tall. On the upper tier, the kneeling sovereigns are accompanied by three of their children, expressing hope in the Resurrection but also the family character of the mausoleum.
    My photo doesn't show the 5 statues at the top,

    The King’s heart and entrails were interred in the abbey at Hautes-Bruyeres near Rambouillet.
    The heart and entrails were place in a funerary urn which is now found in the Basilica. Also to be found is the king’s emblem, the salamander, a symbol of courage and eternity.

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    KING LOUIS XVI & QUEEN MARIE ANTOINETTE

    by balhannah Written Mar 13, 2013

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    The Memorial to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette was one that stood out!

    Originally, the bodies of the beheaded King Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette of Austria, and his sister Madame Elisabeth were not buried in Saint-Denis. They were in the churchyard of the Madeleine.
    It was during Napoleon's exile in Elba, the restored Bourbons ordered a search for the corpses of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. All they found were a few bones that were presumably the king's and a clump of greyish matter containing a lady's garter. After being found in 1815, they were brought to Saint-Denis and buried in the crypt.

    Both had terrible deaths................

    King Louis XVI was guillotined before huge crowds in central Paris at the height of the revolution in 1793. His 8year old son, Louis-Charles de France, automatically became King, but didn't live for long, dying as a child in prison.
    His mother and the King's wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, had her hair cut off and she was driven through Paris in an open cart, wearing a plain white dress. Two and a half weeks before her 38th birthday, she was beheaded at the present-day Place de la Concorde.

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    TOMB OF CHILDEBERT 1 & CLOVIS 1

    by balhannah Written Mar 12, 2013

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    Clovis 1 & Childebert

    Side by side lie Clovis I (d 511) and his son Childebert I (d 558). These Tombs were made around 1150 and are the two oldest Tombs in St. Denis.
    Clovis succeeded his father in 481, at the age of fifteen. He is considered the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, and was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler. He was also the first Christian king to rule Gaul, known today as France.

    The Tombs probably are not quite as impressive, as they were made from limestone. Still, they are considered among the most important works produced in Paris in the mid 12th century.

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    DOGS & LIONS!

    by balhannah Updated Mar 12, 2013

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    As I walked around the inside of St. Denis viewing the many Tombs, I saw a Tomb of a King and Queen, with Lions and Dogs lying at their feet. First, I thought the Dogs may have been the Queens pets, then I noticed the King had Lions, now these couldn't be his pets!
    There were more!
    At last I found the answer! It turns out, the Lions are only found at the base of the Kings, the Lion representing immortality. The Dog, is only found at the base of the Queens feet, the Dog representy fidelity.
    Make sense? Problem solved!

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    BOY KING - FRANCOIS II

    by balhannah Written Mar 12, 2013

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    Francoiss II

    A rather sad memorial was a single pillar commemorating the memory of the boy king, Francois II, son of Catherine de’ Medici and adolescent husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. Francois II died after a reign of only a few months. After his death, his wife Mary Stewart, returned to her native Scotland only to be beheaded by the forces of Elizabeth I of England

    His parents, Henri II and Catherine lie nearby in their grand tomb.

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    TOMB OF DAGOBERT

    by balhannah Written Mar 11, 2013

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    Dagobert Tomb

    Dagobert, king of France from 629 to 639 during the Merovingian dynasty, was buried in the Basilica in 639. He was considered to be the abbey’s founder. His funerary statue is lying on its left side, looking towards the location of the early tomb of Saint Denis.
    Three carvings on the tomb tell the story of the vision of the hermit John. [see photo.]
    The 1st is "The king’s soul" - This is depicted as a naked child wearing a crown, is carried off to Hell on account of his regrettable practice of disposing of the property of certain churches.
    The upper panel has Saint Denis, Saint Martin and Saint Maurice seize the soul from the hands of the demons and take it off to Heaven where it is granted entry to Paradise."

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    VISIT THE SAINT DENIS BASILICA

    by balhannah Written Mar 11, 2013

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    St. Denis

    The Saint Denis Basilica was on my list of "must sees" in Paris.
    Why? Well, to see all the Royal Tombs of course!
    We arrived here by Metro from Paris, about a 20min journey, then it was a short walk to the Basilica.

    The Basilica was built over the tomb of Saint Denis, then slowly, the city of Saint-Denis surrounded it. Saint Denis, was martyred around 250, so this is an extremely old Basilica.

    Forty-two kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses and 10 nobles were laid to rest there. With over 70 recumbent figures and monumental tombs, the basilica’s royal necropolis is the most important collection of funerary sculptures from the 12th to the 16th centuries.

    As soon as I stepped inside the Basilica, I guess I was in awe. Extremely high, lots of beautiful stained glass windows and all the Tombs. Am I allowed to call them beautiful, I don't know, but that is what I thought! So much money spent on a Tomb, but then, if you are a King or Queen, then I guess nothing but the best would do!
    I didn't take photo's of all, there were too many, I think about 72, there were more years ago, since then, they have been destroyed.

    If you like this type of thing, and beautiful Churches, then I would put Saint Denis on your list of MUST SEE!

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    TOMB OF HENRI II & CATHARINE DE MEDICI

    by balhannah Written Mar 11, 2013

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    Henri II was the King of France from 1547 to 1559. His wife was Catherine de Medici.
    Henri II died prematurely following a tournament in the Place des Tournelles which is now the Place des Vosges. It was left to the Queen to rule, which she did, never forgetting her late husband by always wearing a mourning dress.
    The tomb of Henri II and Catherine de Medici, is in a chapel in the northern chevet. Their eyes are wide open, and they are sculpted wearing their coronation robes.
    Another impressive Tomb!

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    BASILICA ENTRY

    by balhannah Written Mar 11, 2013

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    St. Denis entrance
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    Look at the other portals before entering the Basilica, each tells a different story.
    The South Portal depicts the Last Communion in prison, of St. Denis and his two companions.

    The other one had its door open, and it was through here I entered the Basilica. Wow! What an entrance view, for before my eyes, was a stunning rose window. There are two in the Basilica, one in the north transept and one in the South.

    There is an entry fee.
    The Basilica of St Denis is open daily, 10am-5pm (to 6:15pm April to September).
    On Sundays it opens at noon.
    Closed on 1 January, 1 May, 25 December and during some religious services.

    ADMISSION
    Adults 7.50 euros
    Reduced rate 4.50 euros
    Under 18 FREE as well as for EU residents aged under 26.

    Guided tours and audio guides [4.50eu] are available in English, French, Spanish and Italian, lasting between an hour and a quarter and an hour and a half.

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    Basilique Saint-Denis - la façade

    by MM212 Updated Jan 19, 2012
    Fa��ade of Saint-Denis - Nov 2010
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    A beautiful example of Romanesque architecture, the façade of Basilique Saint-Denis is a contrast to the incredible Gothic interior and rear of the cathedral-basilica. Abbot Suger completed the façade first and continued to work on the back of the church, developing Gothic architecture in the process. In designing the façade, he was inspired by the Arch of Constantine in Rome, with its large central arch, flanked by smaller arches, an innovation in church architecture of the time. Intricate Biblical sculptures fill the lunette and arches above the doors, while triple mullioned windows and a small rose window decorate the upper façade. The rose window was also the first ever used. The façade of Basilique Saint-Denis originally had two identical bell towers, but the left one was topped with an 86-metre spire in a 19th century renovation (it looked similar to the south tower of the Chartres Cathedral). Soon afterwards, however, a lightning strike hit the spire and severely damaged the tower leading to its removal.

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