The abbey church of Saint Denis was raised over the Gallo-Roman cemetery which included the tombs of St Denis and his companions. St Denis, the third century bishop of Paris, who was martyred in the Decian persecution of c250A.D. at Montmartre where he was beheaded. He was said to have carried his head the six miles or so to the site of his burial! It is likely that there is some confusion here as later French writers also claimed that he was the author of texts now ascribed to the Pseudo-Dionysius who was mistaken for Dionysius the Areopagite.
The Abbey was greatly favoured by the kings of France for whom it became a necropolis. The nave and aisles are open to the public but a charge is made for admission to the east end, transepts and crypt which include the royal tombs and the most significant architecture.
Part of the Gallo-Roman burial ground has been exposed by archaeologists in the crypt but relics of St Denis and his companions are preserved in a reliquary behind the high altar in the chevet.
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