The Cathedral of Saint Denis
Saint Denis Catholic Church Cathedral, Paris, France
The Savary Family Church
The Savary Family Church
The Abby of Saint Denis was the burial site of the kings of France for centuries and has 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. Originally, the Church of St. Denis had two towers, but the left tower collapsed in 1837.
Pierre Savary, his wife Jeanne Fautisse and their daughter Marie Gabrielle Savary, wife of Jean Baptiste Saucier, and her family were members of the parish and attended church at the Cathedral of Saint Denis in Paris, France.
The Basilica of Saint Denis is a large medieval abbey church in the city of Saint-Denis, now a northern suburb of Paris. The building is of unique importance historically and architecturally, as its choir completed in 1144 is considered to be the first Gothic church ever built.
The site originated as a Gallo-Roman cemetery, in late Roman times. The archaeological remains still lie beneath the cathedral; the people buried there seem to have had a faith that was a mix of Christian and pre-Christian beliefs and practices.
Around 475, St. Genevieve purchased some land and built Saint-Denys de la Chapelle. In 636 on the orders of Dagobert I the relics of Saint Denis, a patron saint of France, were re-interred in the basilica.
The basilica became a place of pilgrimage and the burial place of the French kings, with nearly every king from the 10th to the 18th centuries being buried there, as well as many from previous centuries. It was not used for the coronations of France's kings, that function was reserved for the Cathedral of Reims; however, France's queens were commonly crowned here. "Saint-Denis" soon became the abbey church of a growing monastic complex.
In the 12th century the Abbot Suger rebuilt portions of the abbey church using innovative structural and decorative features. In doing so, he is said to have created the first truly Gothic building. The basilica's 13th-century nave is also the prototype for the Rayonnant Gothic style, and provided an architectural model for cathedrals and abbeys of northern France, England and other countries.
The abbey church became a cathedral in 1966 and is the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Denis, Pascal Michel Ghislain Delannoy. The abbey is where the kings of France and their families were buried for centuries and is therefore often 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. Some monarchs, like Clovis I (465–511), were not originally buried at this site. The remains of Clovis I were exhumed from the despoiled Abbey of St Genevieve which he founded, and moved to St. Denis.
The abbey 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 and dissolved with lime. 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 allowed the royal remains to be left in their mass graves. During Napoleon's exile in Elba, the restored Bourbons ordered a search for the corpses of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The few remains, a few bones that were presumably the king's and a clump of grayish matter containing a lady's garter, were found on January 21, 1815, brought to Saint-Denis and buried in the crypt. The bodies of the beheaded King Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette of Austria, and his sister Madame Elisabeth were not initially buried in Saint-Denis, but rather in the churchyard of the Madeleine, where they were covered with quicklime. A memorial, consisting of two sculptures carved in 1830 by Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, both kneeling in prayer, are located within the church.
In 1817 the mass graves containing all the other remains were opened, but it was impossible to distinguish any individual in the collection of bones. The remains were therefore placed in an ossuary in the crypt of the church, behind two marble plates bearing the names of the hundreds of members of successive royal dynasties interred in the church.
King Louis XVIII, upon his death in 1824, was buried in the center of the crypt, near the graves of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The coffins of royal family members who died between 1815 and 1830 were also placed in the vaults. Under the direction of architect Viollet-le-Duc, famous for his work on Notre-Dame de Paris, church monuments that had been taken to the Museum of French Monuments were returned to the church. The corpse of King Louis VII, who had been buried at the Abbey at Saint-Pont and whose tomb had not been touched by the revolutionaries, was brought to Saint-Denis and buried in the crypt.