Carolingian & Crusader Travel Journal: Day 9

Tomb of Charles Martel (top)

Today we visited the Basilica of Saint Denis, the church where almost all the French kings–Charlemagne is one exception–are buried.

Those buried here include Saint Denis (the first Christian martyr in Paris), Clovis, the first Christian king of the Franks, Charles Martel (Charlemagne’s grandfather) and Pepin the Short (Charlemagne’s father), as well as King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

As with many saints, the true story of Saint Denis’s love for Jesus and willingness to die for Him has been overshadowed by a silly story about Denis picking up his head after his beheading and carrying it for ten kilometers, all the while preaching.

It’s silly legends like this (the story didn’t show up in literature until hundreds of years later) that cause people to reject Christianity and the resurrection as a collection of fairy tales.

Perhaps it was this sort of thing that caused the people of the French Revolution to reject Christianity.

If you’ve traveled in France you have seen or heard of the destruction caused by the revolutionaries to churches and anything having to do with religion or royalty. Ah, the fruits of atheism and the Enlightenment–love, reason and tolerance–and they can all be seen in the French revolution.

Unfortunately, the French revolutionaries stayed true to form at the Basilica of Saint Denis, digging up the remains of Saint Denis and most of the kings and having them thrown into a mass grave outside the church. After the revolution the remains were returned to the church, but because they could no longer be identified they were buried together in a common tomb in the church.

Ironically, the Basilica of Saint Denis seems forgotten. It is in a part of Paris few tourists visit. We were told very few Americans visit the basilica and we heard no one else speaking English there.

The remainder of the day we spent on the Champs Elysees, enjoying the shops and one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever had. I mention this because I ordered a cheeseburger purely for kicks. I wanted to see if the French could best the Americans in what the Americans do best, and I can say now with no hesitation the French are the best cooks in the world.

One more day in Paris before we head home. GS