But off I went on another long metro ride up to St. Denis, which is not only the name of the basilica there, but also the name of the town. It's I guess basically a suburb of Paris or maybe an outer section of Paris that uses its own name sort of like some of the outlying areas in London I think. Anyway, a totally uneventful trip and without bragging, I'm just real pleased with how I've been doing with the metro. :) I had to buy a new batch of tickets today cause I only had one left!
I got there early enough that the town or whatever it is didn't really seem to be awake yet. No one about and somehow kind of forlorn. I'll throw in a picture or two here before I get to the basililca. And I'll warn anyone who might read this, there are a LOT of pictures here. If you get tired of the cathedral, just scroll on down - I went to the Champs Elysee area in the afternoon and have pictures of that too although not such an insane amount. :)
This church has a huge history behind it and I had a very difficult time trying to follow it and finally had to sort of give up. But I do know that it stands on the site of a Gallo-Roman cemetery which held the tomb, apparently, of our beheaded St. Denis. It was built in the 5th century and Dagobert was a benefactor to it in the 7th century and (I love this name) Pepin the Short was crowned king here in 754. So that's way back there. From the 6th century until the revolution, most all the kings, queens, princes, etc., were buried here. It was a man named Suger, an Abbot of St. Denis, who built and rebuilt the existing structure and turned it into a masterpiece of what is now known as early Gothic. It reached its present appearance in the 13th century.
I had read somewhere that a limited amount of the stained glass currently in the basilica is original and wanted to be sure to find out about that. Plus I also wanted to be sure and figure out the just where St. Denis was/is - I've grown a little attached to him and he seems to be a predominant figure in this city.
So, when I got inside (pictures allowed!), here were all these gorgeous stained glass windows down the side of the building I was facing so I decided to take pictures of all 7 of them and then try and find out later what might be original. What I found out later was that none of them were. But they're so pretty, I'm just going to post them anyway. The whole building is pretty much stained glass - some the story-telling type and some just beautiful repeat patterns. Here are the 7 windows from that first side of the building:
and I've left the small size since they are all so similar plus having posted them, I see I must have lost track of one so there are six.
I had an English language little flyer they give you to guide you through the cathedral but I'm afraid for the most part, I was pretty much lost Nothing seemed to match up with the guide and the signs that were posted by various recumbent statues of dead people either gave more names than there were statutes or vice versa. At some point I realized I could have bought an audio guide which might have worked better but I just bumbled along. The recumbent statues of dead people are, of course, for some of the kings and queens and other notables that were buried here. The kind of horrifying thing is that during the French Revolution, the rebels opened all the tombs, took the skeletons and threw them in a mass grave. Then at some point, Louis XVIII had them all gathered up and placed in an ossuary down in the crypt with three marble tablets listing the name of each one. King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antionette were also transferred from a cemetery in Paris and buried in the Bourbon grave which is in the crypt. King Louis XVIII, after getting everyone properly situated, was the last French king to be buried in St. Denis. Turns out one reason so much of the original stained glass was lost was also because of those rebels - they melted the lead.
So here are various pictures of various recumbent statues of dead people along with a shot of the ossuary plaques and the Bourbon grave.
I also managed to figure out that the picture below is Dagobert's tomb (and I love his name too) and it is a beauty.
Three of the 7 chapels. And these all have stained glass windows also and this is where I found my original stained glass - more about that in a bit.
Now the original stained glass and this will probably bore any readers I might have, but I'm putting it here because I was so happy to finally figure it out. I discovered that there are no whole windows that are original, but that instead, parts of an original window were useable enough that they were incorporated into reproductions of the original windows. So with the little signs posted at each chapel, I was able to figure out which "medallions" were original in each panel. All of chapels and the windows, etc., are in what is called Suger's crypt which also, the guide says, contains the sarcophagus of Queen Aregonde, the wife of King Clotaire. She died between 580 and 590 and I would really have liked to find that but I saw nothing that remotely resembled a sarcophagus and no mention of that name.
So here are the windows with the ancient (12th century) medallions pointed out. By the way, it was interesting once I caught on, because the old medallions are not nearly as crisp and clear as the newer 19th century ones and in most of them, the people's faces are brownish.
Now back upstairs to the basilica which is really very beautiful, in spite of its focus on dead people! And I'll pretty much let the pictures do the talking. :)
Now, I'm going outside and getting more pictures!
And that is the end of St. Denis Cathedral. But it wasn't the end of my day. I needed another touristy thing to do cause it was too early to go home. I looked at my Metro map to see where I might travel to and decided I would go to the stop for the Champs Elysee - I could see the Arc de Triomphe and also maybe get inside the glass roofed Grand Palais. So that's what I did and oh, heaven, when I got off at my stop, it was 3 flights down from ground level and there was an up escalator for each flight!
The area around the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais is lovely - very shady and sunny, lots of flowers, trees, sunbathers, etc. And of course, the two palais are over the top. I decided against going in to the Grand Palais cause there was a huge line and it was completely in the very hot son. Thought I'd go in the Petit Palais but couldn't see any signage saying where to get in. So just took some pictures and then started down the Champs Elysee.
And then home, some sushi for dinner, went out to the park for a bit but actually got too chilly! I'm thinking Giverny tomorrow instead of Chartres - two cathedrals in two days is one too many!
And now it's 1:00 a.m. and I am off to bed!