(active 1130s in Paris)

Exterior view

Benedictine Abbey Church, Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis)

In the 12th century the Abbot Suger (1081-1151) rebuilt portions of the earlier abbey church using innovative structural and decorative features. In doing so, he is said to have created the first truly Gothic building. The basilica's 13th-century nave is also the prototype for the Rayonnant Gothic style, and provided an architectural model for cathedrals and abbeys of northern France, England and other countries.

Suger did not rebuild the whole of his abbey church at once. He started with the westwork. Though this suffered considerably in the 18th and 19th centuries (the north tower had to be demolished after being unsuccessfully restored), it still bears witness to the feeling of the 1130s.

The Basilica of St Denis ranks as an architectural landmark — as the first major structure of which a substantial part was designed and built in the Gothic style. Both stylistically and structurally, it heralded the change from Romanesque architecture to Gothic architecture.

Historically the church is important because it is the abbey where the kings of France and their families were buried for centuries and is therefore often referred to as the "royal necropolis of France".

The photo shows the westwork of the former Benedictine abbey church.

View the ground plan of the Benedictine Abbey Church, Saint-Denis.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.