This morning I watched Lecture #5 of Professor Cook's "The Cathedral." This one was titled Saint-Denis and the Beginning of the Gothic Style. Wow!!! This was (another) incredible lecture! And, as often happens, it inspired me to dig more.
First of all, Saint-Denis is a Gothic Cathedral in what is now a suburb of Paris. The Gothic parts, the front (entry) and back (apse), were built around 1140 AD while the center part (nave) was built about 100 years later.
Saint Denis, the person, was the first bishop of Paris and the patron saint of France. Saint Denis was martyred and buried at this location in about 250 AD. This site became a popular pilgrimage site and a chapel was erected here around 475 AD. This chapel was turned into a royal monastery and most of the kings of France were buried here until the time of the French Revolution. During the revolution, the bodies of the kings were removed and buried in a mass grave. Later, the bodies were dug up and reburied in a common ossuary (a place where skeletal remains are buried).
Abbott Suger was the abbot of Saint-Denis from 1122-1151 AD. He was a friend and advisor of Kings Louis VI and Louis VII. He served as a regeant of the kingdom during the Second Crusade. The cathedral was dilapidated, and Suger wanted to rebuild it to rival the temple of Solomon! Abbot Suger is the man often credited as starting the Gothic style of architecture.