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Notes on the Geography of France: Paris 1: Gothic: Photo 1

world pictures France: Paris 1: Gothic

We begin at St. Denis, the church where most French kings are buried. It's five miles north of the Louvre in the very gritty but recently transformed municipality of St Denis. Andrew Ayers, author of the very useful Architecture of Paris (2004), writes that St. Denis "combined for the first time in one edifice pointed arches, rib vaults, vault responds and flying buttresses in a coherent stylistic and technical synthesis, and can be considered the first major edifice of the early Gothic" (p. 289). In simpler words, this is the birthplace of that long-legged style. Note the tripartite division of the facade, useful symbolically as a reminder of the Trinity and useful practically for traffic control at a center of pilgrimage. The crenelations are there not for defense but as a reminder of the heavenly city of walled Jerusalem, where pilgrims might aspire to live eternally.

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