Gothic Basilica of St. Denis, France

The Gothic Basilica of St. Denis is north of Paris. A church was first built there in the fifth century over the grave of St. Denis, the patron saint of France who was decapitated in 250. All the Kings and Queens, princes and princesses of France have been buried in the Basilica since the eleventh century.

The Church’s altar area is filled with life-sized marble likenesses of these regal personages. All but four of the marble statues are in repose, as though asleep on a bed. The images of Francis I and Claude de France, Henry II and Catherine de Medici, and Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne are quite different. They are shown in a two-tiered monument, in the nude below and kneeling in prayer above.

The monuments of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who were murdered during the French Revolution, are shown only kneeling. By the way, Marie Antoinette was a beautiful lady!)

Somehow it seems appropriate that the three most famous and successful French Kings and Queens should be shown in the nude. Job was right: we come into the world naked, and we go out with nothing. Death is the great equalizer.