In the northern suburb of Paris is hidden a jewel of French Christian royalty. This cathedral-basilica holds the tombs of the numerous kings of France and has the name of the patron saint of Paris: Saint Denis.
Evangelized in the 3rd century, France had enough Christians in the year 250 for Pope Fabian to send the first bishop, Saint Denis. Christians were being persecuted up until the Emperor Constantine recognized the Christian faith in 313. The bishop of Paris was one of these martyrs. Legend has it that, after being decapitated on Montmartre, the Saint carried his head and walked until he reached the spot where the actual basilica would be built. Listed as a National Monument, this edifice is an architectural jewel and a high place of memory for the French royalty. At the time of Saint Louis (Louis IX), the basilica became a royal necropolis. Dagobert I was the first Frankish king to be buried here, numerous Capetian kings as well as Anne of Brittany, Francis I, Henry II, Catherine de Medicis, Anne of Austria, Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and many others. A monumental work of Gothic art, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, it is also the show-case for a collection, unique in Europe, of more than 70 recumbent statues and sculpted tombs of many kings of France. It is a parish church, the seat of the bishop and a major cultural site, a site that offers visitors a trip through time when Christian faith and politics were one and the same.