On this day in 1144 the additions to the Carolingian basilica of St. Denis were dedicated.
It’s not often that major historical movements in architecture have such a specific start date, but this church north of Paris is as close to the crack of a starting pistol as anything. That is due not just to the church–or, specifically, the east end/chevet of the church–but rather due to the presence of a singular patron who reveals that Gothic–while certainly expressed in amazing structural acrobatics–is not first and foremost about structure–or even architecture–itself.
The church was and is dedicated to Saint-Denis (d. ca. 250), the first bishop of Paris and one of the best martyrs ever. Denis was beheaded by Romans (of course) in the midst of a sermon. But, like any good professor, a little physical discomfort would not keep him from concluding his thesis. He picked up his head, carried it…
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