All tourists visit Notre-Dame-de-Paris, many of them visit other ancient churches of Paris. But significantly fewer people reach the main cathedral of France, the abbey of Saint-Denis. Meanwhile, this cathedral was not only built in the 12th century, but it is also the first building in the Gothic style, which later spread throughout Europe.
You can book tickets to the Basilica here.
How to visit the Basilica of Saint-Denis?
From April 1st to September 30th:
Monday–Friday — 10:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.
Sunday — 12:00 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.
From October 1st to March 31st:
Monday–Friday — 10:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Sunday — 12:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
(you will see the schedule when pre booking)
The Basilica is closed during church services, on January 1th, May 1st and December 25th.
You can visit the cathedral for free up to the altar part.
To visit the tombs of the kings, the collection of sculptures and the entire necropolis, you need to buy a ticket.
The cost of the ticket for adults is 9.50 euros
For everyone under 18 admission is free.
At the ticket office on the right side of the cathedral you can find information booklets in different languages.
Tickets can be purchased directly from our website, just choose the date in calendar:
The tomb of the kings
The first temple on this site was built in the fifth century, but nothing has remained from it. The existing cathedral was built in 1137–1144, and the altar part of it is located exactly in the same place. According to legend the tomb of St. Dionysius is located exactly there under the temple. He was decapitated by Romans during christian persecutions.
Over the centuries of its existence, Saint-Denis Cathedral has become the burial place for 25 kings of France, their queens and children, which means almost all local monarchs. In the necropolis, by decree of King Louis IX, 16 luxurious tombs were installed. Each of them is a complex structure in the form of independent Gothic cathedrals or luxury decorated sarcophagus with figures of saints around the perimeter.
During the French Revolution, the tomb was devastated, and the royal remains were thrown into the river. Although they were later collected, they were placed in an ossuary, and the luxurious tombs have been empty ever since.
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Basilica of Saint-Denis architecture
Like many medieval temples, the first abbey of Saint-Denis was designed as a small fortress, in which the functions of a church were combined with a defensive castle. However, its imposing walls could not withstand the attack of the troops of King Sigebert, and in the 8th century the church was destroyed and then rebuilt in several stages. The modern appearance of the cathedral was created during the reign of Charlemagne, when in fact a new temple was built on ancient ruins.
Saint-Denis Cathedral has played a key role in the history of architecture. The new architectural style first conquered all of France, and then Europe. In many ways, this is the merit of Abbot Suger, who spent his entire life within the walls of Saint-Denis. He was the one who is considered the inventor of the architectural style, which would later be called the «architecture of light.»
Initially, the temple had two towers, but the high bell tower did not survive the revolution.
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For the interior decoration of the cathedral, the best European masters were invited. The inlaid mosaic floor was ordered in Italy, the elegant gold utensils were made by master jewelers from the banks of the Rhine and from England, stone sculptures were made by carvers from Burgundy.
The construction of the abbey introduced a fashion for stained-glass windows using the «grisaille» technique, when the painting was done with black color on colorless smoked glass, and for plot paintings on type-setting colored glass. The best craftsmen from Picardy were invited to work on glass in the cathedral itself, who made huge glass canvases for it, mostly in deep blue tones. All of them are combined into a single story that tells about the events of the First Crusade and Charlemagne’s visit to the Holy Land.
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How to make your visit even more exciting?
- Come in the morning and preferably in sunny weather. You will have a chance to enjoy the tricks of the light of stained-glass windows on the walls of the cathedral.
- Read a book by Maurice Druon or watch the Cursed Kings series before visiting. You will meet many characters in the necropolis.
- Don’t search for luxurious tombstones of «famous kings», this expectation won’t come true. Saint Louis used to have, as his contemporaries described him, «the most beautiful coffin in the world», but because of the «holiness» of Louis and his tomb, they were given away for relics. Another Louis, the sun king, built a magnificent Versailles, but the fashion for huge expensive tombstones had already passed by that time. So there is no gold in Saint-Denis.
The Abbey of Saint-Denis is truly an amazing place, it tightly links modern reality with a history which is so ancient that in our minds it is almost a fairy tale. You should definitely visit this legendary church.
Have a great trip to Saint-Denis!