Architecture: The Basilica of St Denis

By Tracey Thompson

The Basilica of St Denis is a church and tomb located in Paris, France.  It became famous when it was redesigned and rebuilt by Abot Suger in 1144.  The tomb of the Basilica of St Denis is also quite famous because it was the burial place for many French kings.  The Basilica of St Denis can be viewed online at various websites or in Paris, as it is still standing and being toured.  The Basilica of St Denis originally built in the Romanesque style, when it was redesigned it reflected the new Gothic styles.

The Basilica of St Denis is sometimes referred to as the beginning of the Gothic architecture style because it was one of the first buildings to feature so many Gothic elements.   The way that the church is designed gives a strong sense of space.  The sense of space is somewhat attributed to the many windows which let in natural light, and give the building a feeling of openness.   The windows of the Basilica of St Denis are also an important Gothic feature, because it was the first building to have stained glass “rose” windows.  These windows are made up of multiple circular windows arranged to form the shape of a rose; they are also stained in deep hues of blues, purples, and reds. 

The design of the Basilica of St Denis is also based on biblical themes.  The massive windows which allow such a sense of space are based on the biblical phrase “let there be light”.  The building is also designed with the north/south and east/west naves crossing so that the entire building forms the shape of the cross.

Although the Basilica of St Denis was redesigned to feature the Gothic architectural style, some of the Romanesque style is still present.  The pointed arches, multiple columns clustered, and the ribbed vaults are all dominate elements of the Romanesque style.  The Basilica of St Denis evokes such a strong feeling of empowerment.  It was built so massive and with materials which are so strong and heavy that you can just feel the strength and know that this is a building that may last forever.  But, at the same time, all of the intricate details of the windows and the ribbed vaults make me feel that this is a very intimate and feminine structure.  Overall, the Basilica of St Denis is simply a work of art, through the architectural design, the structure, and the beauty of the details.

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1 Comment

Filed under All About Essays, Architecture, Middle Ages, Written By Students

One response to “Architecture: The Basilica of St Denis

  1. Julie Walton

    The Bascilica of St Denis is an intriguing church for the simple fact of it also having a burial place for French kings. The openness of the building and all the windows letting in natural light through stain glass had to breath taking.

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