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Basilica of Saint Denis

Basilica of Saint Denis


France's royal necropolis

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Why you will love it?

The Basilica of Saint Denis holds one of France’s most important historical site: the Royal Necropolis. Many powerful kings have ruled over the French territory throughout the centuries, and almost all of them (and their family) now rest here. Easily accessible by metro, the Basilica of Saint Denis is a beautiful old gothic church holding the largest historical funerary art display in Europe.

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About this place

1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 93200 Saint-Denis
Line 13 - Saint Denis Basilique

Tuesday : 10:00 am - 17:15 pm
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Monday : 10:00 am - 17:15 pm Tuesday : 10:00 am - 17:15 pm Wednesday : 10:00 am - 17:15 pm Thursday : 10:00 am - 17:15 pm Friday : 10:00 am - 17:15 pm Saturday : 10:00 am - 17:15 pm Sunday : 12:00 pm - 17:15 pm
1 January 1 May 25 December

Our Insiders' Article

Basilica of Saint Denis

42 kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses and 10 leading figures in Frances’ royalty are all buried in the Basilica of Saint Denis, a beautiful 12th century gothic church which also holds the largest collection of historical funerary art in Europe. The basilica is therefore a must see for those who want to know more about the evolution of funerary art and recumbent effigies throughout the centuries. You will also learn more about the kings and queens that have ruled over France since the 5th century.

Making the Most of it


The Basilica of Saint Denis is easily accessible by metro.  Get off at Saint-Denis Basilique on line 13 and follow the signs “Basilique” to the basilica. Entrance to the Basilica is free, but you’ll need to buy a ticket to see the necropolis.

The recumbent effigies and tombs are located in the transept, ambulatory and crypt. For a better understanding of the necropolis, take some time to read the leaflets in your language available at the entrance.

The area around the basilica is not very safe, especially at night. Look out for your belongings. 


The first thing you will amaze you when entering the Basilica of Saint Denis is the beauty of the 12th century building itself, with magnificent stained-glass windows.

Inside the necropolis, the most impressive tombs are those of the Renaissance kings (15-16th century) Louis XII, François I and Henri II.

Finally, the tomb of Saint Denis is located in the remains of a very old church whose walls can still be seen today.

Of course, for the passionate art and history buffs, the evolution and creation of the recumbent effigies is truly fascinating.

Saint Denis

In the 3rd century, Denis came to Lutetia (former name of Paris) in order to spread Christianity. The local Roman leaders did not tolerate this. Denis, generally referred to as the first bishop of Paris, was sentenced to death and beheaded on Montmartre hill.

Then the miracle happened: Denis took his fallen head in his hands and walked for 6km. He was buried where he finally fell to the ground, which is where the basilica now stands…

The relics of Saint Denis are now exposed in a shrine located in the choir of the basilica.


Between the 6th and 13th centuries, it was important for royalty to rest next to Saint Denis. Although King Dagobert I (605-639) was the first king to have his tombstone built there, it is 13th century king Saint Louis (Louis IX) that turned the Basilica of Saint Denis into the official Royal Necropolis.

During the French Revolution, the authorities ordered the destruction of the Royal Necropolis. Luckily, most tombs were dismantled and stored safely. The bones were thrown in a communal grave next to the basilica.


Although Napoleon wanted to transform the Basilica of Saint Denis into an Imperial Necropolis, it is only with the arrival of King Louis XVIII in 1814 that the monument regained its prestige and historical value. The recumbent effigies were reassembled and the mixed bones of his royal ancestors were dug out of the communal grave, placed in boxes and brought back inside the basilica’s crypt.

For the beauty of the church, the historical value of the Royal Necropolis and the visible evolution of funerary art, a visit to the Basilica of Saint Denis is truly a must do for anyone interested in those 3 subjects.

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