Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oct 15, Part 13 - The crypt of St-Denis Basilica

If I thought I was unprepared to take photos upstairs, I was really unprepared for most of the crypt. Again, I would take a tripod or monopod and read more about how to use the camera settings. Even so, I like quite a few of the pictures from the crypt. The photo above is of the same subject as the photo below. The one above came out black until I tweaked it with PhotoShop, leaving it atmospheric but not very sharp. Louis XVII, King of France and Navarre, is shown in portrait, and the urn below holds some part of his remains. I'm not sure if it's his ashes or heart. Hearts and sometimes other entrails were often kept in jars, especially if the person died some distance from home and of course, it could not all be preserved. I believe that burying the heart on sacred ground was also done on purpose, and sometimes different parts of the body were buried in different places. St. Denis Basilica holds the hearts of a number of monarchs whose bodies were not moved or buried here.

This is another picture of the same tomb. You can see more of it, but the atmosphere is destroyed somewhat and flattened by the flash. The basilica has audio tours, but we didn't take one. Somehow once we got there it seemed that a tour with such details would put us on overload. From my computer miles away and now distant in time, it feels like it would be a fun thing to do if I ever go back and want to take the time.
Here's another ornate monument. I don't remember who the monarch is.

Here is some elegant stained glass from a later era. The basilica was built in stages, and the crypt was extended beyond the size of the original church. They wanted to enlarge the apse, and they needed to build a foundation. This crypt incorporates that foundation, and it was then used for additional tombs and monuments. It's built around the oldest part of the crypt in a horseshoe shape under the ambulatory of the apse.

Pretty and peaceful. Here's another tomb and more leaded glass windows.

The crypt also includes a few educational displays.

This small passage contains the elegant grave slabs of a number of kings and queens. There are some people on a tour.

One area I really like is in the north side of the crypt. Handsome black slabs bear the historical record of French royalty. The first name on the record is Dagobert, who died in 638. The slabs are housed in a stone room something like a huge baking oven. Outside of that cavern are more slabs, below, near a black gate with decorative swirls that leads up to the ground level of the church.

This ends the walk around the outer area of the crypt. If we take those stairs on the left, we'll be on the ground floor again, but I headed back to the central and oldest part of the crypt under the high altar of the church.

This area has not been completely excavated, and was the original crypt for a much smaller original church. Offhand, I don't know what year or century that would have been. There's a visitors' viewing platform where you can observe, but you can't walk around in this ancient part.

Some of the oldest tombs are beyond the grating.

The early architecture is still being pieced together and cut-aways show the viewers what the old building must have been like. The dark mound in front of us is part of a wall made up of very thin slabs of brick or stone.

In several places we can get tantalizing glimpses of a design finished in red-hued paint.

Here we can see some of the carved stone used in an early period. This location may go back to Gallo-Roman days, but I can't say what era these pillars come from. If I do the research, I'll update the blog. This photo is taken just outside the oldest part of the crypt, back on our way out to the more recent part of the building.

And here we are back at the gate with the swirls near the black slabs with the list of kings. You can just see a bit of the stained glass in the upper level. Next we went into the north side of the transept to look at more monuments. Stay tuned!

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