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Basilique Saint-Denis (Church of St. Denis)

Sacred Buildings: Romanesque and Gothic Church of Saint-Denis, near Paris


Constructed between 1137 and 1144, the Church of Saint-Denis marks the beginning of the Gothic style in Europe.
The start of the Gothic era

Basilique Saint-Denis, or the Church of St. Denis, in Paris

Photo © flickr member Stevecadman
The church would have "the most radiant windows" to "illuminate men's minds so that they may travel through apprehension of God's light."
--Suger, Abbot of Saint-Denis
The Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis wanted to create a church that would be even greater than the famous Hagia Sophia Church in Constantinople. The church he commissioned, Basilique Saint-Denis, became a model for most of the late 12th-century French cathedrals, including those at Chartres and Senlis. The facade is primarily Romanesque, but many details in the church move away from the low Romanesque style. The Church of Saint-Denis was the first large building to use the new vertical style known as Gothic.

Originally the Church of Saint-Denis had two towers, but one collapsed in 1837.

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