Article

Saint-Denis

Robert F. Berkhofer

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online December 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0100
Saint-Denis

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
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  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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The monastery of Saint-Denis, just north of Paris along the Seine River, was dedicated to Denis (Dionysius), the 3rd-century Apostle of Gaul and the first bishop of Paris. The significance of Saint-Denis derives not merely from its foundational importance to the French church, but from the very close relationship with the kings of France throughout the Middle Ages. The vast majority of the medieval kings came to be buried at the abbey church, a tradition traced back to the Merovingians. Although the monastery was associated with the rise of the Carolingian dynasty, it was eclipsed under the early Capetians. However, even stronger links to the kings were forged in the dynamic Time of Abbot Suger (r. 1122–1151), which guaranteed its enduring importance under the Later Capetians (1151–1328) and after, with a disproportionate influence over Capetian royal ideology and historiography. The rebuilding of the abbey church in the early 12th century, under the supervision of Abbot Suger, made the monastery an important (some scholars would say the leading) European center for the early Gothic style. In consequence, the art and architecture of the abbey church has been intensively studied by art historians and archeologists. Close links with the Crown meant that the church itself became a focus of antiroyal sentiment during the French Revolution. The consequent damage of the church and the nationalization of its records and property, as well as some misguided attempts at preservation and restoration in the 19th and 20th century, have sometimes impaired modern scholarship. Because of its importance to the French kingdom, Saint-Denis has been the subject of numerous exhibition catalogues.

Article.  8351 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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