One of the city’s lesser visited gems features awe-inspiring stained-glass windows and one of the biggest collections of funerary art in Europe.
Marvel at the tombs of nearly all of France’s monarchs and the stunning carved sculptures that lie atop them at Saint Denis Basilica. See exquisite statues along with some of the very earliest examples of Gothic architecture.
Away from the crowds of Notre Dame and Sainte Chappelle, see this magnificent medieval church, rich in history and filled with a wealth of precious artifacts. It was built on the tomb of Saint Denis and an earlier ancient Roman cemetery. Construction began around 1136 and was completed toward the end of the 13th century.
Stand in front of the west façade and view the tower that stands near the center. As you approach the curved main entrance, look up to a figure of Christ showing the wounds of his crucifixion.
Step inside and find yourself in a long, high nave illuminated by rays of sunlight that shine through the vast stained-glass windows. Enjoy the rich purple and blue of the central rose window while all around you are vivid depictions of Biblical tales.
Wander through the open, sprawling interior. Then head downstairs to the crypt. Set across the cold stone floor are more than 70 tombs in the dimly lit room that has come to be known as the royal necropolis. Peruse the sleeping, lifelike figures that represent more than 70 kings and queens along with many more princes and princesses. Look for the features of renowned leader Louis VIII as well as Marie Antoinette. In spite of the breathtaking appearance of these works of art, many of the bodies were stolen and thrown into mass graves during the French Revolution.
Saint Denis Basilica is in the suburb of Saint Denis in northern Paris. Pay a small entry fee, which includes audio tours offered in English. Stroll through the green spaces in the neighboring Parc de la Legion d’Honneur and stop for a coffee or lunch in one of the cafés surrounding the basilica.