The Abbey of Saint-Denis: A Royal Mausoleum

Established, by Louis IX at the burying-place of the French monarchy, in 1793 Saint-Denis was solemnly desecrated by order of the revolutionary Convention, determined to remove all “horrid memories” of the former royal line. By Peter Quennell.

The French affection for the grand gesture extends to gestures of symbolic vengeance. It was in this spirit that the citizens of revolutionary Paris tore down the superannuated Bastille stone by stone and, eighty-two years later, set fire both to the Hotel de Ville and to the Palace of the Tuileries. Similarly, during one of the most tremendous periods of the Revolution, on July 31st, 1793, Bar ere took his stand in the National Convention to propose that the “first victory of the People,” the storming of the Tuileries on August 10th, 1792, should be commemorated by the solemn destruction of the royal monuments, “effrayants souvenirs des ci-devant rois,” at the abbey-church of Saint-Denis.

The Throne had been abolished on September 21st, 1792; Louis XVI himself had been dead for over six months; but, so long as the ancient tombs continued to tell their tale, a dangerous link with the past was still unsevered.

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