Saint-Denis

Saint-Denis (săN-dənēˈ) [key], city (1990 pop. 90,806), Seine–Saint-Denis dept., N central France. It is an industrial suburb N of Paris. Metals, chemicals, machinery, electronics, and food products are the major manufactures. A large number of immigrants, especially Muslims from former French colonies, are concentrated there. Saint-Denis was founded early in the Christian era (presumably on the site where St. Denis fell and was buried) and grew rapidly as a place of pilgrimage. In 626, King Dagobert I built a Benedictine abbey near the chapel housing the tomb; this abbey became the richest and most famous in France. Around 750 a new sanctuary was begun by Pepin the Short and finished by Charlemagne. Joan of Arc blessed her weapons at the abbey, and it was there that Abelard became a monk. The abbey's banner, the oriflamme, was the royal standard of France from the reign of Louis VI (early 12th cent.) to that of Charles VI (early 15th cent.). In the 12th cent. the famous basilica was built under the supervision of Abbé Suger, the abbot of Saint-Denis and a minister of Louis VI and Louis VII. Devastated during the French Revolution, the abbey was restored, with later work by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Saint-Denis was the first cathedral considered essentially Gothic in construction and was the prototype of Senlis, Chartres, and other cathedrals. Within the cathedral are the tombs of many kings and leading personages of France. Particularly remarkable are the tombs of Francis I by Philibert Delorme and of Henry II by Germain Pilon. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are buried in the crypt. The abbey is now a school for daughters of members of the Legion of Honor. Other points of interest in the city include a museum of gold and silver wares and the Municipal Museum.

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