|Saint-Denis Necropolis, Paris, France
|The Basilique de Saint-Denis, just north of Paris, offers fine Gothic architecture and holds the tombs of centuries of French monarchs.
The necropolis of Saint-Denis is a wonderful place to reacquaint yourself with French royalty and enjoy wonderful statues and funerary carving. In all St-Denis houses the tombs of 42 kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses, and 10 "great men of the realm."
As you enter, you'll be greeted on your left by the monumental tomb of King François I and Claude de France. What you'll notice right away are the bare feet!
Custom was for the deceased couple to be portrayed reclining and nude in the tomb, and clothed, seated, and praying on top of the tomb. And a separate urn is designated for François I's heart.
As you wander, you'll see many familiar names. The praying statues of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette are housed in a small chapel. The statues date from about 1830, when their ashes were brought to St-Denis.
Some of the oldest tombs are in the chevet, the area behind the altar. The Meorvingian kings and queens, including Clovis (466 - 511), have had their tombs here since the 19th century. King Dagobert's tomb is where he was buried in 639; it's just to the right of the altar.
Continuing around you'll come to the magnificent tomb of Henry II and Catherine de Medici, surrounded by lovely statues of the four virtues. Nearby is the splendid tomb of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne, shown "dead, naked, and flayed" inside the tomb and alive, clothed, and praying on top.
The crypt contains both archaeological remains of earlier structures on the site and graves and cenotaphs (funeral monuments without burials). The Bourbon grave holds the remains of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.
Throughout the cathedral are the lovely carved tombs of other kings, queens, and lesser royalty—over 70 recumbent statues and tombs. Most are shown in repose, some with favorite animals accompanying them.
Be sure to visit the rest of the church as well. It is a fine example of early Gothic architecture. Its rose windows were some of the earliest. Other stained glass dates from the 19th century.
Although you can visit the cathedral for free, the necropolis is more of a museum. There is an admission fee and the entrance is on the right side of the cathedral.