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date: 26 January 2020

St Denislocked

  • Anne Walters Robertson

Extract

Benedictine monastery north of Paris. It was the burial-place of the French kings, and the first abbey to display elements of Gothic architecture. Over the centuries, St Denis forged a ritual, based on an embroidered history of the saint for whom it is named, that reflected both the royalist politics of the monks and the particular needs of the successive church buildings.

St Denis (Sanctus Dionysius) was a 3rd-century missionary, sent from Rome to serve as first bishop of Paris and martyred in the city in about 250. A basilica built over his tomb to the north of Paris in about 475 housed the first pre-monastic establishment. Merovingian kings adopted St Denis as their patron early on, and in the Carolingian era, King Louis the Pious asked Abbot Hilduin (814–41) to write an official life of the saint. The primary source on St Denis was the 6th-century account of Gregory of Tours, but Hilduin drew on other works instead. Among these were the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, the 5th-century Syrian author of four Neoplatonic metaphysical treatises in Greek (ed. and trans. C. Luibheid and P. Rorem, Mahwah, NJ, ...

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