Monday, 9 July 2012

St. Denis

Oh, the rain in Paris!


The sky will be gray and drizzly for hours, with maybe a bright promise of sunshine breaking through to get you to let your guard down, and the next thing you know, you are soaked through.

I've stopped bothering with nice shoes altogether. I save those for the sunniest, brightest days only.


On one of these fantastically wet days, we took the metro to the north suburbs of the city to St. Denis. It's still on the Metro line, but it took about 45 minutes to get there. We walked around a bit in the bustling town when there was a slight break in the drizzle. Ironically, what used to be a very Christian area is now very Middle Eastern, so there's lots of places to get Kebabs and falafel.

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The Basilica of St Denis is where all of the French Kings and royal families since the 10th century are buried- some by choice and some were dug up and entombed here. Or parts of them were, anyway.

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Even on a gray day, the stained glass looked brilliant.

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Downstairs, in the crypt, there is what is thought to be the tomb of St Denis. They have a nifty overhead projector showing you this. He was an early Christian figure in Paris back when it was run by Romans. He was beheaded in Montmartre (the Monte of Martyrs) where Sacré-Cœur now stands, and then he promptly picked up his head and walked all the way to what is now St. Denis, and now this is where this cathedral stands. His image is everywhere, and they had a whole exhibit of his likeness through the ages. No explanation is given as to how he was able to walk for miles without his cerebellum or his primary motor cortex properly attached, but no matter. Cool story, bro. He was probably picked up and moved by Dagobert when he wanted to build the church here and install some relics, and the legend was built on that.


The tombs of Marie and Louis are down here, along with the rest of the Bourbon clan. They were originally thrown into the graveyard near Madeline church, but later were dug up and what may or may not have been their bones were innered here instead.

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In a glass case, there is the mummified heart of, uh, one of the Kings by the name of Louis. I can't remember which one. There were just so many of them.




Henry II was originally buried in a cadaver tomb, where you have the statue on top but you could view the rotting corpse below that in a glass case. Either they covered it up at some point or I just didn't see it.

I don't know enough of the history of Kings to get a whole lot out of the visit, but some of the tombs were spectacular in their scope, size and artistry. There weren't too many people visiting either as it's kind of far out of the city center, so even on a weekend it seems like you wouldn't have to battle lines and crowds. If it's not pouring rain, there are lovely gardens around the basilica and some markets and shops to explore.

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