Gustave Moreau Museum and, of course, churches

This is our last day in Paris.

We cabbed to the Gustave Moreau Museum. You can take the subway out there, but its pretty much on its own in a general shopping district.

Ticket for the Musée G. Moreau

Ticket for the Musee G. Moreau

Gustave Moreau was a famous symbolist painter. The space is magnificent, covering three floors of his home. The first floor is his living space, including his military uniform (he was a decoorated officer),a painting of Moreau by Degas, and paintings of his family. There are two floors above (his old studio) crammed with drawings, watercolors, pastels and paintings. The drawings are in pull-out racks. This was worth the visit.

We had lunch at a La Rotunda cafe.

We ducked into La Trinita across the street. It was built in 1863-87.

We cabbed next to the Basilica of St. Denis. This is another must-see, although its at the end of the subway in the inner suburbs. St. Denis was beheaded by the heathen – legend has it that he picked up his head and walked downhill to the site of this church (about 300 yards or so). There’s a great statue of St. Denis in Montmartre. He is supposed to be buried beneath the basilica. It’s huge & very old. The kings of France are buried there, including Clovus, Charlemagne & Louis XIV. The first mausoleum dates from the 6th century. St. Denis is the first gothic cathedral, completed in the 13th century, predating Notre Dame. Gothic cathedrals used flying buttresses to allow for windows along the upper reaches – you can contrast the generous light in St. Denis with the dimness inside the Duomo.

This is a flying buttress from St. Denis, the first gothic style church

This is a flying buttress from St. Denis, the first gothic style church

Quoted from their pamphlet:

“The basilica of Saint-Denis was built over a Gallo-Roman cemetery in which St. Denis, the first bishop of Paris, was buried. Martyred c. 250A.D., his story was embellished by many legends from the Vth to the IXth centuries.

“Tradition has it the first church was built by St Genevieve c. 475. As early as the Vth century Saint-Denis was a place of pilgrimage, and in the VlIth century king Dagobert became a benefactor of the monastery there. In 754 Pepin the Short was crowned in the abbey by the Pope, in the presence of his sons Carloman and the future Charlemagne. Over the centuries the ties between the French Crown and the abbey grew, making it one of the most powerful in the kingdom by the abbacy of Suger (1122-1151), adviser to two kings and regent of the realm during the Second Crusade. The history of the abbey and of the monarchy became as one. Many queens were crowned there. Its relics of holy martyrs gave the abbey a threefold role as symbolic protector. First, as a necropolis, the abbey was the protector of the body and soul of the king; secondly, as keeper of the ‘Oriflamme’, the royal banner, it was the protector of the realm; thirdly, as keeper of the coronation paraphernalia in its treasury – one of the richest in Latin Christendom – it was the protector of the Crown. The Hundred Years War, the Wars of Religion, and political unrest contributed to the decline of the royal abbey of Saint-Denis long before the French Revolution finally swept it away.

“From the early Middle Ages Saint-Denis was used as a royal necropolis and several kings of the Merovingian dynasty chose it as their burial site. King Dagobert was the first one, but before him queen Aregonde, Clovis’s daughter-in-law, was buried in an exceptionally rich tomb, uncovered during archeological digs in the crypt. Several members of the Carolingian dynasty were also, buried in the church, including Charles Martel, Pepin the Short and Charles the Bald. From Hugh Capet on, all the kings of France but three – Philip I, Louis VII and Louis XI – were buried in Saint-Denis.

“Louis IX (St Louis) commissioned the first recumbent effigies in stone. His own tomb, made of silver, was destroyed during the Hundred Years War. 46 kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses as well as 10 great officers of the Crown lay there until the French Revolution. The last kings – the Bourbon branch – never had any tombs: their embalmed remains were placed in sealed coffins, set on iron trestles in the crypt.

“In 1793 the revolutionaries set out to destroy the symbols of the monarchy. The tombs were ransacked, and some destroyed like that of Hugh Caper. The desecrated bodies were thrown into mass graves.

“After the restoration of the monarchy the abbey resumed its r6le as the royal necropolis. In 1817 Louis XVIII had the remains of his forebears re-interred in the crypt and the bodies of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette transferred from the cemetery of La Madeleine. The funerary monuments which Alexandre Lenoir had used for his museum of French monuments in Paris were brought back and restored. With over 70 recumbent effigies and tombs, the royal necropolis of Saint-Denis is the most important display of funerary sculpture from the Xllth to the XVIth century.”

We were really tired and had to pack when we got back to our hotel. We ate pastries (and I mean a whole box – we got a bit sick from it) for dinner in the room while we packed our gifts and clothes.



  1. purplehayz (purplehayz)
    6:13 pm on April 18th, 2010

    New post: Gustave Moreau Museum and, of course, churches

  2. today
    3:36 am on September 23rd, 2011