THE beauties of Saint-Denis are not to be grasped in a single visit. A preliminary trip, to take the keen edge off curiosity, followed by leisurely promenades, armed with a permission from the Beaux-Arts, which enables a visitor to prowl about without the annoyance of a guide, will develop the amazing interest of the tombs.
It is interesting to discriminate between the tombs built for the church, to cover the remains of royalties actually interred here, and that greater mass of recumbent figures, funeral stones, and monuments brought here from demolished churches after the disorders of the Revolution.
The tombs have been arranged and rearranged many times, carried back and forth, mutilated and restored, until most of the sentiment concerning them has been lost and they seem to have little connection with the illustrious dead, so shamefully desecrated. The statues and monuments have now the air of exhibits in a museum. The Revolution, in permitting any of them to stand, after its first rage was appeased, expressly stipulated that it should be as works of art and not objects of pious veneration, and notwithstanding the regret of succeeding generations for events which made this church the theatre of orgiastic revel and macabre festival, the spirit of the Revolutionary mandate has stood.
Impressive and glorious as are the tombs, even in their present arrangement, the imagination needs the spur of much reading-up of the subject if one is to feel the true import of the royal sepulchre in the face of actualities so strongly antipathetic. Great labels are affixed to each quiet, mediaeval effigy, rendering useless but not silencing the rigmarole of the guide; they stand out boldly against the exquisite sculpture, and to add to the disillusionment are alternated with similar placards inviting the public to refrain from various disgusting practices; and these with the elaborate fencings-off to keep one at bay, the intrusive guards with their unique preoccupation the lavish pourboiremake a constant irritation which it is difficult to rise above. It is a thousand pities that it must be so.
We must understand, of course, that what we see at Saint-Denis is only a part, though in truth the greater part, of the original marvellous collection of royal tombs, and that it has been greatly augmented by the numerous monuments brought here from the abbeys of Sainte-Genevieve, Saint-Germain-des-Pres, and Royaumont; from the con-vents of the Cordeliers, Jacobins, Celestins, and other religious orders, saved by the individual devotion and energy of Alexandre Lenoir, a single private citizen, who removed them personally to the museum improvised in the convent of the Petits-Augustins for safe keeping during the Reign of Terror.
The Revolution came down heavily upon Saint-Denis, as the sepulchre of that royalty which it had determined to extirpate. Much has been written of the orgies which accompanied the violation of the royal tombs, of which not one was spared, every grave having been opened, every vault searched, every casket emptied, every body rifled. The thing was done with hellish thoroughness, at first cursorily, for the mere pleasure of wanton destruction, then with diabolic system.
During the seance of July 31, 1793, Barrere presented a report, in the name of the redoubtable ” committee on public safety,” recommending, in celebration of the anniversary of August 10, 1792, the day when the monarchy was overthrown, the annihilation of the ” ostentatious mausoleums of Saint-Denis,” whose beauty constituted ” a form of flattery to royal pride.”
The report was sanctioned by a decree of the National Convention, and the real fete appears to have been held, as ordered, on the anniversary of the storming of the Tuileries, when the cream of the statues and monuments was cleared out of the church, when the ” powerful hand of the Re-public,” to use Barrere’s phrases, ” effaced inexorably the superb epitaphs and demolished the monuments which recalled the frightful souvenir of the kings.”
But time pressed and there was much similar work to be done, so it was not until after Lequinio addressed the national tribune, more than a month later, denouncing the failure to execute the decree which ordered the entire demolition of the tombs of ” our tyrants at Saint-Denis,” that the job was finished. In the meantime some protests against the vandalism must have reached the ears of the directors, for, continues Lequinio, ” without doubt in destroying these remains of despotism one should preserve the artistic monuments; but these, instead of being made objects of idolatry, must serve only to foster admiration and emulation of the genius of the artists.”
In October, 1793, the undertaking was put into the hands of a commttee of conscientious persons who spared neither time nor pains to search every grave and every vault, overlooking nothing, and leaving a careful report of their proceedings made by a no less competent person than dom Poirier, the former keeper of the archives of Saint-Denis, and one of the dignitaries of the abbey. This old Benedictine has left a cold, colourless account of the affair, but one that has all the value and authenticity of a report made by an eyewitness. The document has of course immense historic value.
The work began on October 12, 1793, and occupied exactly a month, proceeding as we have said with much system. As gold crowns, jewels, ornaments, or whatever were discovered they were turned over to swell the national treasury; lead and bronze coffins were melted into arms and ammunition for defence-the nation ” being in peril “while the bodies of the kings, queens, princes, and princessesthe ” tyrans, frappes jusque dans leurs tout beaux “were thrown into trenches of quicklime and destroyed to the last vestige.
On the first day the vault of the Bourbons was opened, in one of the chapels of the crypt, and the first casket withdrawn was that of Henri IV.
Dom Poirier notes the fact, adds the date of the king’s death, May 16, 1610, and his age, 57 years, and then adds that the body was in excellent preservation, his features perfectly recognizable, and that he was exposed to public view for two days, in the choir at the foot of the steps which lead up to the sanctuary.
Lamartine has left a vivid picture of this grotesque fete during which the people raging upon the tombs seemed to exhume their own history and throw it to the winds. ” The axe broke the bronze doors, the gift of Charlemagne to the basilica. Grills, roof, statues, all fell in debris under the hammer. They tore up the stones, violated the vaults, and broke open the caskets. A mocking curiosity scrutinized, under the shrouds and wrap-pings, the embalmed bodies, the dried flesh, the whitened bones, the empty skulls of kings, queens, princes, ministers, bishops, whose names had re-sounded in the past of France. Pepin, the founder of the Carlovingien dynasty and the father of Charlemagne, was nothing but a pinch of gray ashes which blew away in the wind. The mutilated heads of Turenne, Duguesclin, Louis XII, Francois I, rolled upon the paving of the parvis. Historic and religious emblems and attributessceptres, crowns, crosses, were trodden underfoot.
An immense trench lined with quicklime to consume the cadavers was opened in one of the exterior cemeteries, called the cimitiere des Valois. Perfumes burned in the subterranean passages to purify the air. After each blow of the axe were heard the acclamations of the grave diggers who, uncovering the remains of a king, played with his bones. . . .”
” Henri IV, embalmed by the art of the Italians, conserved his historic physiognomy. His uncovered chest still showed the two wounds which cost him his life. His beard, perfumed and spread like a fan, as in his portraits, attested the care which this voluptuous king had for his person. His memory, dear to his people, protected him a moment against profanation. During two days the crowd filed past this popular cadaver. Placed in the choir at the foot of the altar he received in death the respectful homage of these mutilators of royalty. Javogues, representing the people, was indignant at this posthumous superstition. He tried to show in a few words that this king, brave and amorous, had been rather the seducer than the servitor of his people. ` 11 a trompe,’ said Javogues, ` Dieu, ses mattresses, et son peuple; qu’il ne trompe pas la posterite et votre justice.’
They threw the cadaver of Henri IV into the common trench.”
His son, Louis XIII, and his grandson, Louis XIV, followed. Louis XIII was nothing more than a mummy, Louis XIV an unrecognizable black mass of aromatics. Louis XV was the last drawn from the vault of the Bourbons. This, as it happened, was at eleven o’clock on the morning of Wednesday, 16 October, 1793, at the moment that Marie-Antoinette lost her head. Dom Poirier notes the coincidence and remarks that the coffin of Louis XV occupied the niche at the entrance of the vault where it was customary to deposit the body of the last king while awaiting the arrival of his successor, when he was carried to his proper ‘resting place in the vault.
Louis XV died of small-pox and had lain something short of twenty years in the vault of the Bourbons. His casket was opened on the edge of the trench in the cemetery. ” The infection of his reign seemed to come out of his sepulchre,” says Lamartine, and he was quickly thrown into the trench and covered with quicklime and earth, while they burned powder and, says dom Poirier, fired a few shots from a gun to purify the air.
Turenne’s body, mutilated by shots, was venerated by the people. They stole it and it lay hidden for nine years at the Jardin des Plantes, amongst the remains of stuffed animals. Napoleon gave him a military burial at the Invalides. But Dugueselin, Suger, Vendome, heroes, abbots, ministers of the monarchy, were precipitated pelemele into the common trench.
The monuments in metal were almost all melted down, although they included the precious recumbent statues of Charles le Chauve, the tomb of Marguerite de Provence, the mausoleum of Charles VIII, and the effigy of the sire de Barbazan, signed by Morant.
What Lenoir had saved from the holocaust he carted with enormous difficulty into Paris. The monastery of the Petits-Augustins, which had been founded in 1609, by Marguerite de Valois, the first and divorced wife of Henri IV, was chosen by the Constitutional Assembly at the moment of the suppression of monastic orders and the sale of religious houses, as a place of deposit for monuments otherwise without shelter, whose preservation might present an interesting study of art or history.
A special committee was charged to designate what works of painting and sculpture should be gathered up, and Alexandre Lenoir, an artist full of zeal and devotion, who had pushed the measure through the Assembly, was commissioned to hunt up the monuments and to take charge of their transportation. As we know, he spared neither trouble nor fatigue, and several times risked his life for the menaced monuments. He received a bayonet stroke when he flung himself before the tomb of cardinal Richelieu (now at the Sorbonne) when the furious mob rushed upon it.
The convent comprised within its enclosure a church, a cloister, two large courts, and an immense garden. The largest monuments and those of the more remote epochs were put in the church, and the others ranged according to their centuries were installed in a number of rooms decorated in the style of their period by means of fragments of architecture gathered up from the ruins of famous buildings, and contemporary stained glass. Chapels, sepulchres, columns, fountains, sarcophagi, containing the remains of illustrious personages stood about the garden, while entire facades brought from Anet, from Gaillon, and other chateaux came to be adjusted on the sides of the principal court, where some are still to be seen.
But large and commodious as was this monastery, it was much too small to display all the treasures poured into it, and a mass of debris was packed provisionally in the cellars.
The opening of this Musee National des Petits-Augustins was the ” 15 fructidor, An. III.” The grandeur of the ensemble made a profound impression upon the public, people began to deplore the ruin of so many treasures of antiquity, and soon the tide turned against the iconoclasts of 1793. Lenoir’s work served a double .purpose and from it dates the revival of appreciation of the art of the Moyen Age.
More than twelve hundred objects in all passed through the collection; some made only a short stop in the museum and were quickly restored to their original places. After the restoration of the cult the sacred images were almost all reinstated in the churches from which they had been taken. All that we most admire to-day at Saint-Denis, in the Louvre, in the rooms of French sculpture at Versailles, in many churches, first found refuge at the Petits-Augustins.
A royal ordonnance of December, 1816, ordered the closing of the museum and the restitution of the exhibits at the government’s expense. Either by indifference or parsimony the churches did not hurry their claims and many of the old families of France, whose chateaux had been ruined, showed a similar negligence and failed to reclaim the tombs of their ancestors. Thus mausoleums of kings and princes were transported to Saint-Denis together with a mass of unrelated material, while the court of the Beaux-Arts, which institution succeeded the museum in the reign of Louis XVIII, is still rich in historic souvenirs of this fateful time, precious fragments having been employed in the decoration of the new buildings of the Ecole.
Under Viollet-le-Duc the tombs of Saint-Denis were arranged somewhat after the plan of their original disposition. Nothing indigenous to the cathedral is earlier than the time of Louis IX, who had many of the statues of his predecessors made at the time that he rebuilt the church. The famous tomb of Dagobert, usually attributed to Suger, is now generally accepted as a century too late in workmanship to have been done under his direction.
Of the authentic antiquities we have the tomb of Clovis, brought from the destroyed abbey of Sainte-Genevieve; it lies at present in the left transept, one looks down upon it as one mounts the steps to the ambulatory, and beside it lies the funeral stone of Childebert, from Saint-Germaindes-Pres, of whose dignity and character we have already spoken. The figure has a style and vivacity lacking in the heavier effigy of Clovis, and, holding in his right hand the apse of the church which he built, Childebert seems to point to it, with his sceptre, with a gesture full of regal authority. His draperies are well managed, so arranged as to reveal his figure, the lines of which are indicated with masterly precision.
The funeral stone of the intrepid Fredegonde, the most wicked of her race, also from Saint-Germain-des-Pres, occupies a sheltered position on the right-hand side of the sanctuary, an honour due to its great antiquity and its value as a work of art. The longer one examines this beautiful relic the more possible does it seem that it does indeed date from the epoch of the queen herself, which would place it as early as the beginning of the VIIth century and make it older by some five centuries than the statue of Clovis, made in the XIIth century, and otherwise the dean of the collection. No description yet written has done justice to it, no drawing suggests its venerable mystery. The stone mosaic is exceedingly fine and hard, while the expressive outlines in gilded copper, the elaborate embellishments of the robe and the border of the stone, indicate an affinity with the antiquities of Persia.
The beautiful tomb of Dagobert, exiled upon its return to Saint-Denis to the porch of the nave, has been put back in its place of honour to the south of the high altar. Viollet-le-Duc has re-paired so far as was possible the vandalism of the architect of the restitution, and restored the tomb to its original form, that of an ogival chapel with a double face, graceful and elegant in shape and solidly constructed in sand-stone. When the monument was first brought back to Saint-Denis it was cut in two and its two faces set in opposing ends of the porch to balance one another as the tombs of Dagobert and his wife Nantilde.
Dagobert died in the abbey of Saint-Denis, in 638, and his body, carefully embalmed, was interred in the church. We know nothing of the manner of the first tomb which covered the re-mains. The present monument has been re-mounted upon the original sarcophagus in gray marble, decorated with sixteen fleurs-de-lys, upon which lies a modern effigy of the king, supported on the two sides by modern statues of Nantilde and one of the two princes, probably Clovis II.
The tall, pointed bay above the recumbent figure is filled with lively sculpture based upon the vision of a hermit, called John, and considered in the IXth century as a veritable revelation. The vision came to the hermit on the day of Dagobert’s death. At this time John, sleeping in his hut, on the sea-coast, was approached in his dream by a man of imposing aspecta bishop, some say Saint-Deniswho bade him rise quickly and pray for the soul of the king Dagobert just dead. Scarcely had the hermit responded when he saw upon the sea the king maltreated by a group of demons who had tied him in a barque, and were conducting him to the cave of Vulcan. In the relief the soul of Dagobert is represented as a nude figure, wearing a crown. Dagobert in his distress invokes the assistance of Saint-Denis, Saint-Maurice, and Saint-Martin, whom he had particularly loved, and the three saints, in the midst of a mighty tempest, rush at once to rescue the soul of the king from the demons.
The bay is divided into three panels. The first represents the hermit asleep in his cave with the bishop bending over him. An oak tree separates this picture from the rest, in which we see Dagobert standing in the boat upon the waves, receiving a flogging from the hands of the devils, while others row and push and pull the boat towards Vulcan’s cave. The second panel shows the demons frustrated while Dagobert is received by the saints accompanied by angels with censers. In the third panel the three saints hold Dagobert upon a sheet by which they lift him to celestial spheres, while the hand of God appears through a cloud surrounded by angels.
The sculpture is crisp and full of vivacity, and except for the three modern figures the monument is one of the handsomest of its epoch.
Close by this tomb is the seated figure of the Virgin with the Christ upon her knees, from the church of Saint-Martin-des-Champs. The statue is in wood and we see traces of painting upon it. Its character is unusual and its antiquity convincing. Its epoch is unknown, but Lenoir, who saved it and who mentions it in the catalogue of his museum, thinks it may be as early as 600.
Amongst the many recumbent figures that of the Countess Marguerite d’Artois is considered a fine example of grace and elegance of the Moyen Age; ” le XIV siecle n’a jamais ete mieux inspire, et n’a jamais produit une plus ravissante statue de femme,” was Guilhermy’s verdict. The effigy lies side by side with that of Louis, comte d’Artois, son of Philippe le Hardi, buried in the church of the Jacobins in Paris, and the statues came to Saint-Denis by the usual route.
That the two statues are not by the same hand is evident; there is a dulness about that of the count, as in many of these recumbent figures, made from memory or data after death. But the effigy of Marguerite has none of that perfunctoriness; the sculptor has been moved by his subject and presents the woman as she must have been in life, yet with all the mystery of death. Not only is the face, partially enveloped in its veils, an exquisite bit of modelling, not only is the charming form revealed with the most perfect art, though these are the essential points, her very clothes express the fineness and charm of this woman and the love which the sculptor put into his work. She rests in a simple pose, the hands joined as if in prayer. The chin is supported in a veil which, carried to the brim of the coif, falls again in straight lines to her shoulders. The coif bears a discreet coronet and under this a few locks of hair soften the face. The robe is very plain across the chest but falls in ample folds about the feet; one cannot too much admire the art with which the sculptor has handled this sumptuous drapery. At her feet two sprightly little dogs play upon a tuft of oak leaves.
The three great monuments of Saint-Denis are the Renaissance tombs of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne, Francois I and Claude de France, and Henri II and Catherine de Medicis. With these three magnificent monuments, made for the cathedral, may be classed the tomb of the House of Orleans and the column of Francois II brought from the Church of the Celestins ; the column of Henri III from Saint-Cloud; the urn made to contain the heart of Francois I, from the abbey of Hautes-Bruyeres, and the sumptuous effigies of Henri II and Catherine de Medicis by Germain Pilon, from the estate of the sculptor.
In these monuments we may trace the birth of French Renaissance from its roots, in the art of Italy, until its ultimate fruition under Francois I and Henri II in the work of such a glorious group as the sculptors Jean Goujon, Germain Pilon, Pierre Bontemps and the celebrated architect, Philibert Delorine.
Examining these monuments in chronological order the first to command attention is the elaborate and beautiful tomb erected by Louis XII, the son of Charles, due d’Orleans, to his grand-parents, Louis de France and Valentine de Milan, to his father, and to his uncle, Philippe comte de Vertus. In addition to its artistic importance this monument is of great historic value as immortalizing the memory of the Orleans from whom were descended the great kings of the period of French Renaissance, for from Louis XII onward we pass to a time of rich artistic development, shown as well in sculpture as in architecture, not only in Paris but better preserved in the chateaux of France.
Louis IX was a builder, he has left us at least one great masterpiecethe Sainte-Chapelle. After him Charles V figures brilliantly as a builder of royal residencesit was he who erected the Had Saint-Pol, and it was he who first adopted the Louvre as a royal residence. Now Louis, duc d’Orleans, was the second son of Charles V. He built the chateaux of Pierrefonds and la Ferte-Milon. His history was full of incident and ended in tragedy. While his brother, Charles VI, occupied the throne of France, Louis, duc d’Orleans, tachoit de desennuycr the queen, Isabeau de Baviere, in her house in the Marais, the Hotel Barbette.
On the evening of November 23, 1407, while Queen Isabeau, magnificently gowned and wearing a headdress cn cornes merveilleuses, hautes et longues enchasses de pierries, was dining intimately with her brother-in-law, a royal valet entered and announced that the king desired the duke to come to him at once as he wished to speak to him on matters of utmost importance. The queen was full of fears, but the duke sans chaperon apres avoir mis sa houppelande de damas noir fourre, hurried out, playing with his glove as he went, and mounted his mule, accompanied by two squires mounted on the same horse, a page, and three running footmen with torches. Raoul d’Octouville, former treasurer, who had been dismissed from his post by the duke, was waiting in the shadow, accompanied by seventeen armed men, and instantly rushed upon him with cries of “A mort! a mort!”
By the first blow of his axe Raoul d’Octouville cut off the hand with which the duke guided his mule, a second blow split his head. The duke cried vainly, ” Je suis le duc d’Orleans “; no help was proffered and he soon tottered and fell. One of his servants fell upon the prostrate body and was killed on the spot. As the death was accomplished a hooded figure emerged from the neighbouring Hotel Notre-Dame, and cried: ” Extinguish your lights and escape.” At the funeral of the duke the next day in his chapel at the Celestins the same figure was recognized; it was the duc de Bourgogne, Louis’s first cousin.
The body of the due d’Orleans reposed, without a monument, under the altar of the chapel at the Celestins, which he had founded and richly endowed, until his grandson, Louis XII, in 1504, erected the superb mausoleum, of which what we see at Saint-Denis is the reassemblage. This tomb stood in the centre of the Chapelle d’Orleans, surrounded by a number of other funeral monuments, forming in their ensemble one of the most precious museums of the world. These included the statue of the admiral Philippe de Chabot, by Jean Cousin; the group of the Three Graces (the urn which they support intended to contain the heart of Henri II), the work of Germain Pilon ; the columns of Anne de Montmorency, of Francois II, and of Timoleon de Brissac; the Longueville obelisk, chiselled with reliefs and surrounded by statues; the tomb of Rene d’Orleans, of which Saint-Denis treasures the fragments, and that of Henri, duc de Rohan, sculptured by Michel Anguier. The dispersal of this sculpture and the destruction of the chapel which enclosed it were among the most wanton acts of vandalism of the past century. The whole was sacrificed to the cutting through of the Boulevard Henri IV in 1847-48.
The convent of the Celestins was founded by Charles V, who laid the . corner-stone in 1365. This stone is now at the Musee de Cluny. Charles V and his son loaded the foundation with riches, and after the abbey church of Saint-Denis none other in France was so rich in wonderful monuments to the illustrious dead.
Of the identity of the sculptor who achieved the noble tomb of the House of Orleans, nothing is known. It antedates the tomb of Louis XII by about fifteen years, but since its style is even more advanced than that of the later monument it has been thought that Louis XII commissioned some able Italian sculptor to design and model it.
The design is original and logical. Upon a large, square platform supported by short columns between which are niches with figures of apostles and martyrs, lie the effigies of the brothers, Charles and Philippe. Between these stands a sarcophagus upon which lie the recumbent figures of the grandparents, Louis and Valentine.
Charles, duc d’Orleans, the father of Louis XII, was the poet who languished a prisoner at Windsor for twenty-five years after the battle of Agincourt. All four statues show the ablest of sculpture and much charm of historic detail; that of Charles, except for the hands, which are restored, is of unusual beauty and elegance. At his feet the little porcupine, cut with spirit and full of character, recalls the order founded by Charles d’Orleans, of which this little animal was Francois I and Henri II the arrival. It was Francois I, the successor of Louis XII, who erected, at Saint-Denis, this handsome mausoleum to his father-in-law. (Francois I married Claude de France, daughter of Louis XII.) Its authorship, after much uncertainty, has been established and Jean Juste, of Tours, sculptor-in-ordinary to the king, is credited with the work, aided by his brother Antoine.
These two sculptors, locally famous in the be-ginning of the Renaissance, worked for the cardinal d’Amboise upon the sculptures of the chateau de Gaillon and have left, in the cathedral of Tours, a charming souvenir of their talent in the tomb of the children of Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne. The little boy and girl lie side by side on a slab of black marble, and two pairs of small kneeling angels, at their heads and their feet, watch over them. The tomb is embossed with symbolic dolphins and exquisite arabesques.
So little is definitely known of these early sculptors that one can only conjecture. The Justes are thought to have been of Florentine origin (Giusto) and the monument in the details of its sculpture shows strongly the influence of the Italian Renaissance, as well as reminiscences of the antique. Its architecture, however, shows the superiority of the French architecture of the period.
The tomb is in the form of a sizable edifice, in the style of a temple, open on the four sides, and covered by a roof. Within the edifice is the sarcophagus, upon which lie the effigies of the king and queen, entirely nude ; while upon the roof, or platform raised upon twelve arches, are kneeling statues of the pair in ceremonial robes. The twelve arches are divided by sixteen pilasters, the two faces entirely covered with arabesques of exquisite chiselling and worthy of thorough examination. Amongst vases and horns of abundance, leafage, heads of angels, winged figures, griffons, serpents, swans, sphinxes, birds, bulls’ heads, instruments of music, arms and funereal attributes, one deciphers the monogram of Louis and Anne, the arms of France, and the salamander of Francois I.
Under each of the twelve bays formed by the arcade is seated the statue of an apostle, very much restored from the mutilations of the Revolution; and at the angles sit the four cardinal virtues, readily recognized by their ordinary symbols.
Between these figures the base of the monument is decorated with four bas-reliefs, the subjects drawn from the history of the wars of Louis XII in Italy, worked out with considerable fidelity to fact, and extremely beautiful in their surfaces, modelled with great fluency. One can see here influences, perfected in the reliefs upon the monument to Henri II, which have spread to our own day.
The arcade carries a platform, under which is the ceiling of the mortuary chamber, a ceiling in handsome caissons, ornamented each with a different rose. This shelters the sarcophagus upon which lie the forms, rigid as in death, of Louis XII and his consort, Anne of Brittany, done with much realism. The king’s face presents the painful alterations characteristic of dead faces, the con-traction of the lips, the prominence of the bones, the dryness of the flesh. The queen, her head thrown back upon her pillow, keeps more grace and charm.
The figures posed upon the top of the monument kneel on cushions before prie-Dieu. Each wears the ermine mantle of royalty and the two statues are considered to have been faithful portraits.
The tomb of Francois I, which forms a more than worthy companion monument to that of Louis XII, stands on the opposite side of the cathedral, and of the three similar Renaissance tombs is the largest and most elaborate. Its architect. was Philibert Delorme, the royal effigies have been attributed to Jean Goujon, the reliefs to Pierre Bontemps, and the other sculptural de-tails to Germain Pilon, Ambroise Perret, Jacques Chantrel, Pierre Bigoine, Bastien Galles, and Jean de Bourges. Thus the monument combines the work of the most illustrious group of sculptors of the French Renaissance, directed by the celebrated architect of the Tuileries.
The general disposition of the monument corresponds to that of its prototype and its details are even richer and more splendid. The base is ornamented with a similar relief, in four panels, representing the military achievement of Francois I, including the campaign of Marignan in twenty-one reliefs, the triumphal entry of Francois into Milan, the Battle of Cerisoles with the events which preceded it and those which followed. These panels in very low relief, containing a multitude of figures, are extraordinary in their eloquent flatness. They have the quality of paintings.
A vaulted chamber, the ceiling in caissons, rounded, like a canopy, occupies the principal part of the monument, and contains the two sarcophagi, upon which, side by side, lie the nude figures of the king and his consort. The XVIth century has produced no more noble sculpture than these impressive, naturalistic figures, worthy in-deed of their supposed author, Jean Goujon. Francois I is represented in all the majesty of death, the head nobly conceived, the body modelled with great distinction and elegance. Beside him the sculptor has carved a more tender, subtle figure of Claude de France, who died in the flower of her youth (at twenty-five years, in 1524).
Five figures, kneeling upon the platform which covers the tomb, represent the king and queen in ceremonial robes, the dauphin Francois, Charles, duc d’Orleans, and Charlotte de France, who died at eight years. The king and queen kneel before prie-Dieu ornamented with their initials, F and C, under crowns. The dauphin and the due d’Orleans are the work of Pierre Bontemps.
Immediately behind this monument stands the magnificent marble urn brought here after the Revolution and made for the abbey of Hautes Bruyeres, by Pierre Bontemps. Francois I died at the chateau of Rambouillet and, according to the custom, his heart and intestines were taken to the abbey of Hautes-Bruyeres, which is near Rambouillet, the intestines buried and the heart placed in a chasse, upon a column of alabaster. The vase with its pedestal was saved by Alexandre Lenoir, and is considered one of the most remarkable works of renaissance sculpture.
The tomb of Henri II and Catherine de Medicis, which to the writer has always appealed as the ripest and richest of the Renaissance tombs under consideration, is the work of one hand. Germain Pilon designed it and directed its execution, himself making the most important parts.
The tomb was designed to stand isolated in a chapel of its own constructed by Philibert Delorme under the direction of Catherine de Medicis. It was removed to the north transept of the cathedral in 1719, when the chapelle des Valois was destroyed.
Following the type of the Louis XII tomb, the monument contains kneeling figures of the king and queen upon its roof, while underneath the nude forms of the same lie upon their shrouds in attitudes of sleep rather than death. By the time that this statue was made every trace of Gothic feeling had died out. In the effigy of Louis XII, full of the horror of death, we feel still something of the Gothic spirit which dwelt upon the ugly facts, the punishments, and superstitions of the faith. But with the accomplishment of the Renaissance all was beauty, and Germain Pilon, who was the most suave of the sculptors of his epoch, has robbed death of all sting.
The king is modelled with extraordinary skill and grace. The figure sleeps peacefully upon the bed of death free from all trace of suffering or terror, the head thrown back upon the cushion which supports it, in an attitude full of charm and nobility. The young queen, in a pose almost voluptuous, slumbers beside him. Pilon represents her as she was when Henri II was killed, though she survived him thirty years. This is one of the loveliest nudes in existence. What is so surprising and so admirable in these two figures especially, though it is scarcely less true of the nudes upon the other two tombs, is the dignity of these undraped figures; though deprived of every insignia of royalty, they are none the less essentially majestic and regal.
Catherine, like her successor and kinswoman, Marie de Medicis, knew how to direct an artist and was keenly alive to the importance of leaving behind her, as she wished her name to live, works of art and architecture whose superiority alone would make them, and her as the subject, immortal. How wise they were, these daughters of the Florentine merchant princes. Marie de Medicis insured the immortality of her name through the Rubens paintings of her life. Catherine no doubt thought to create, in ‘the Chapelle des Valois, with this tomb and incidentally herself as the central interest, a marvel which would compare with the famous tomb of her ancestors at San Lorenzo.
Though frustrated of her full desire, Catherine would live through the beauty of this figure of Pilon’s alone, and in this sumptuous tomb, and the magnificent chapel designed to contain it, we feel the pride of race, the projection of an ego centuries beyond the grave.
The crypt of Saint-Denis has suffered many modifications. Originally it consisted of a central part (corresponding to the sanctuary of the upper church), of an ambulatory, and seven chapels. In it are still two columns of pink marble with white marble capitals, cut after the antique traditions, which date from the church of Charlemagne, if not from that of Dagobert.
The central part, now altogether walled up and inaccessible to the public, was the sepulchre of the three holy martyrs and contained the relics of the abbey. As a sanctuary it seems to have been abandoned at an early epoch, and since the XVIth century no religious ceremonies have been held there. In the XVIIth century it became the Royal Vault.
Previous to Henri IV the kings and queens and others buried at Saint-Denis reposed in the sarcophagi which constituted their tombs. Henri II, Catherine, and their three sons, Francois II, Charles IX, and Henri III were laid in the Chapelle des Valois. On the day of the interment of a sovereign it was customary to place the body of the deceased king provisionally in the ceremonial vault, under the south transept, and here it lay, in state, upon a grill before a marble statue of the Virgin, for one year, during which the permanent resting place, chosen by the deceased, was prepared. At the end of the year the body was carried to its final tomb.
Henri IV was the first king of the House of Bourbon; he began a new line. When he died his body was put in the usual place in the ceremonial vault, but as he himself had chosen no sepulchre and Marie de Medicis took no action in the matter and he could not be laid in the Chapelle des Valois, since it belonged to another branch of royalty, his body was allowed to remain in the receiving vault, and as his descendants died it became the custom to place their caskets there.
This tomb, however, was small, so upon the death of Marie-Therese, Louis XIV ordered an enlargement. This enlargement consisted merely of opening a narrow passage between the ceremonial chamber and the old sanctuary of the crypt. Marie-Therese died on July 30, 1683, and the new sepulchre was blessed on the last day of the following month, and was thereafter known as the Royal Vault.
The access to the Royal Vault was by a stone stairway, under the transept, which communicated with the ceremonial vault from which the new chamber was reached by means of a long, narrow, and crooked passage. As soon as the new vault was ready all the caskets of the Bourbons were transferred to it except that of Louis XIII, the last king dead, who was left on the last step of the stairway, where he was to wait until the next king should take his place. This, then, became the custom, and was followed in the burials of Louis XIV and Louis XV. This last monarch was still in his place upon the steps when the Revolution broke.
The hasty rage of the Revolutionists could not brook the inconvenience of the ordinary entrance to the Royal Vault when it came to carrying out the bodies of the despised monarchs. In order to facilitate and expedite matters the authorities broke into the wall of the larger vault, from the other end, between the two columns opposite the end chapel of the crypt. This accounts for the fact, already noted, that Henri IV was the first king taken out and Louis XV the last.
Napoleon repaired the Bourbon vault for the reception of the imperial family, making the en-trance where the violators of 1793 had effected their entry. When the Bourbons regained the throne this opening, through which had passed in violence all their illustrious ancestors, was walled up and the entrance restored as originally in the south transept, through the ceremonial vault.
The opening still exists, covered by three stones, under which the stone stairway leads down, corn-posed of fourteen steps. At the foot of the steps, on the right, reposes, upon a heavy iron grill, the body of Louis XVIII, the last king interred in Saint-Denis. An old account describes the casket, covered with a black velvet cloth, bearing a silver cross, while above a vase of copper holds the entrails. Thus Louis XVIII awaits upon the steps of the ceremonial chamber a successor who never replaced him.
Rich still in tombs, Saint-Denis contains only a pitiful handful of royal remains, walled up in the Royal Vault. Two caskets enclose what was thought to be the remains of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, gathered up from the Cimitiere de la Madeleine, where their mutilated corpses were thrown into a deep trench between beds of quicklime. Opposite them in other coffins, rest Victoire and Adelaide de France, the two princesses who died in exile, and Charles-Ferdinand d’Artois, due de Berry, who fell under the sword. Beside their murdered father in two tiny coffins, like cradles, lie two poor children who lived only a few hours. One of them, Mademoiselle d’Artois, was destined to become a princess.
The last of the Bourbons, Charles X and his son, died in exile and were buried on foreign soil. Louis-Philippe and the two Napoleons were not more fortunate.
At the back of the Royal Vault is a little stone armoire supported on two antique colonnettes. This contains some supposed remnants of the bodies of Henri IV and Marie de Medicis and of Louis XIV; two hearts from the old Jesuit church of Saint-Louis, in the Marais, considered to be those of Louis XIII and Louis XIV, and some unidentified bones. These remains, enclosed in enamelled lead boxes, were deposited in July, 1846. Some bones, found in 1817, in the trenches of the Cour de Valois, where the Revolutionists threw the despoiled corpses of their kings, have been added to them.