Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cerise went to #Paris and discovered all kings and queens of #France buried in Cathedral of Saint Denis!

Gothic Saint Denis undergoes restoration, hence
you see the scaffolding. Inside?
A must-see on your trip to Paris.
Do take the Metro!
Travel has become part of who I am personally and professionally. I always did adore seeing all those places I read about as a child, the Tower of London, the Acropolis, Ephesus, Paris, Verdun. But the joy has multiplied in the past ten years as I am able to visit places that bring much more gratification to me than a nod to a bucket list. Always intrigued by the details of incidents in history, I have found a way to travel that gives me a sense of depth and accuracy to the plots and characters in my novels.

Here are a few pictures that give me that little shiver up the spine. In October, when my husband and I went to Paris for two weeks, the very first place we went was the Basilica at Saint Denis.

This gorgeous Gothic church, the first of its type, sits in the northern outskirts of Paris. Yes, you can and should take the Metro to go. As you can see, they are doing major renovations by sandblasting the exterior to give it a "wash" of its soot. Inside, it is quite lovely and the items in there are breath-taking.

While I leave it to you to go read a history of the church and its innovative architecture, I will tell you what seeing this meant to me.

I loved the small exhibit to the side of the church, filled with ancient (we are talking 4-6th century stones from first construction) items. I was intrigued too by the manner in which this cathedral became the burial place for all French kings and many of their nuclear and extended families.

Louis XIV's crypt in wall.
Louis XIV is buried here, along with his ancestors and descendants. His crypt with inscription in the
stone wall seems a small but (forgive the word) egalitarian way to bury the man who was anything but an equalizer.  So many kings and queens are buried here, I could have spent the entire day and night and next one there.  But then, it is Paris and one must dine...and so you see that I do have a few priorities when I go hunting.

One absolutely exquisite stone crypt was that of Henry II and his queen Catherine de Medici. No picture of that here of mine, alas. Every time I thought I had a clear shot? BAM. Someone stepped in to admire it. And worthy of that, it is.
A long view of the floor of the cathedral gives
you a sample of the enormous number of royalty buried here.

I give you instead one just as grand, that of Francis I and his first wife, Claude of France. Supposedly, the representation of Francis is true to life. Let me just say that if this is true, Francis was a giant!  His feet alone give testament to that. The other arresting feature of this ensemble is the manner in which Claude has her head thrown back against her pillows as if she's in torment.  Francis certainly gave her a good run-around with all his affairs, personal and other. So perhaps this attitude of hers is representative of her throes in life! His own attitude is one that many art historians say is indicative of  sculpture imitating the dying Christ.
Francis I and his wife Claude of France in their crypt.

Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.
The most poignant sculptures are the effigies of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette praying. These two are in the main chapel, but their remains and those of any relatives salvageable after the Terror are in repose in the central crypt below the high altar. Here, beneath a huge black granite stone,  they lay.

My last picture for you is one of the outer ramparts. After seeing so many gothic churches in one trip, I am becoming a big fan of gargoyles.

Outer buttresses and gargoyles of Saint Denis.

1 comment:

Lisabet Sarai said...

Great post, Cerise!

I was in Paris in 2013, but I got so frustrated with the lines at Sainte Chapelle that after that, we didn't try to actually go inside ANY of the monuments.