I have just visited the Basilica of St Denis on the outskirts of Paris. It’s in a working class suburb – a little out of place these days. A medieval church slap bang in the middle of a 1970s shopping precinct. Much of it was destroyed in the French Revolution of 1789 while the surrounding area took a pounding during the Second World War – and from post-war town planners.
All the Kings and Queens of France were buried in this 12th century building – constructed on the site of an even more ancient Christian church – and possibly a pagan temple before that. The tombs included the last resting place of King Philip IV of France – referred to as “the Fair”. But he wasn’t very fair to the Knights Templar. In fact he crushed them in the year 1307 and seized their assets. His final cruel act was to have the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, burnt to death near Notre Dame cathedral.
FIND OUT MORE: Why did King Philip of France crush the Templars?
But maybe the Templars had the last laugh from their graves. Because 450 years after Philip died, his body – and those of other French monarchs – was dug up and flung into a common grave. This was during the French Revolution when the Paris mob wanted to wipe out everything associated with the old regime. As a consequence, they pillaged the royal tombs at St Denis – graves that dates back countless centuries. And Philip was not spared.
Here I am wandering around St Denis, giving you an exclusive look at a church that is hard to get to – but worth seeing.