Saturday, November 3, 2007
This article is about the city in suburban Paris. For the medieval basilica and royal necropolis, see Saint Denis Basilica. For the saint, see Denis. For other places called Saint Denis, see Saint Denis (disambiguation).
Saint-Denis is a commune in the northern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 9.4 kilometres (5.8 miles) from the centre of Paris. Saint-Denis is a sous-préfecture of the Seine-Saint-Denis département, being the seat of the Arrondissement of Saint-Denis.
Saint-Denis is home to the royal necropolis of Saint Denis Basilica and was also the location of the associated abbey. It is also home to France's national stadium, Stade de France, built for the 1998 Football World Cup.
Saint-Denis is a formerly industrial suburb currently reconverting its economic base. Many - actually most - of the residents are Muslim immigrants from former French colonies.
Inhabitants of Saint-Denis are called Dionysiens.
During its history, Saint-Denis has been closely associated with the French royal house; starting from Dagobert I, almost every French king is buried in the Basilica.
However, Saint-Denis is older than that. In the 2nd century, there was a Gallo-Roman village named Catolacus on the location that Saint-Denis occupies today. Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris and patron saint of France, was martyred in about 250 and buried in the cemetery of Catolacus. Denis' tomb quickly became a place of worship.
Sainte Geneviève, around 475, had a small chapel erected on Denis' tomb, by then a popular destination for pilgrims.
It was this chapel that Dagobert I had rebuilt and turned into a royal monastery. Dagobert granted many privileges to the monastery: independence from the bishop of Paris, the right to hold a market, and, most importantly, he was interred in Saint-Denis; a tradition which was followed by almost all his successors.
During the Middle Ages, because of the privileges granted by Dagobert, Saint-Denis grew very important. Merchants from all over Europe (and indeed from the Byzantine Empire) came to visit its market.
In 1125, Abbot Suger, counselor to the King, granted further privileges to the citizens of Saint-Denis. He also started the construction of the basilica that still exists today.
Saint-Denis suffered heavily in the Hundred Years' War; of its 10,000 citizens, only 3,000 remained after the war.
During the French Wars of Religion, the Battle of Saint-Denis was fought between Catholics and Protestants on November 10, 1567. The Protestants were defeated, but the Catholic commander Anne de Montmorency was killed. In 1590, the city surrendered to Henry IV, who converted to Catholicism in 1593 in the abbey of Saint-Denis.
King Louis XIV started several industries in Saint-Denis: weaving and spinning mills and dyehouses. His successor, Louis XV, whose daughter was a nun in the Carmelite convent, took a lively interest in the city: he added a chapel to the convent and also renovated the buildings of the royal abbey.
During the French Revolution, not only was the city renamed "Franciade" from 1793 to 1803, but the royal necropolis was looted and destroyed. The remains were removed from the tombs and thrown together; during the French Restoration, since they could not be sorted out anymore, they were reburied in a common ossuary.
The last king to be interred in Saint-Denis was Louis XVIII. After France became a republic and an empire, Saint-Denis lost its association with royalty.
On January 1, 1860, the city of Paris was enlarged by annexing neighboring communes. On that occasion, the commune of La Chapelle-Saint-Denis was disbanded and divided between the city of Paris, Saint-Denis, Saint-Ouen, and Aubervilliers. Saint-Denis received the northwestern part of La Chapelle-Saint-Denis.
During the 19th century, Saint-Denis became increasingly industrialized. Transport was much improved: in 1824 the Canal Saint-Denis was constructed, linking the Canal de l'Ourcq in the northeast of Paris to the River Seine at the level of L'Île-Saint-Denis, and in 1843 the first railway reached Saint-Denis. By the end of the century, there were 80 factories in Saint-Denis.
The presence of so many industries also gave rise to an important social movement. In 1892, Saint-Denis elected its first socialist administration, and by the 1920s, the city had acquired the nickname of la ville rouge, the red city. Until Jacques Doriot in 1934, all mayors of Saint-Denis were members of the Communist Party.
During the Second World War, after the defeat of France, Saint-Denis was occupied by the Germans on June 13, 1940. There were several acts of sabotage and strikes, most notably on April 14, 1942 at the Hotchkiss factory. After an insurgency which started on August 18, 1944, Saint-Denis was liberated by General Leclerc on August 27.
After the war, the economic crisis of the 1970s and 1980s hit the city, which was dependent on its heavy industry, heavily.
During the 1990s, however, the city started to grow again. The 1998 Football World Cup provided an enormous impulse; the main stadium for the tournament, the Stade de France, was built in Saint-Denis, along with many infrastructural improvements, such as the extension of the metro to Saint-Denis-Université.
Since 2000, Saint-Denis works together with seven neighbouring communes (Aubervilliers, Villetaneuse, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, Épinay-sur-Seine, L'Île-Saint-Denis (since 2003), Stains (since 2003) and La Courneuve (since 2005) in Plaine Commune.
In 2003, together with Paris, Saint-Denis hosted the second European Social Forum.
Saint-Denis is served by four stations on Paris Métro Line 13: Carrefour Pleyel, Saint-Denis - Porte de Paris, Basilique de Saint-Denis (in the center of town, near the Saint Denis Basilica), and Saint-Denis - Université.
Saint-Denis is also served by La Plaine – Stade de France station on Paris RER line B, which is the closest station to the Stade de France sports arena.
Finally, Saint-Denis is also served by two stations on Paris RER line D: Stade de France – Saint-Denis and Saint-Denis. This last station, historically the only rail station in Saint-Denis before the arrivals of the Métro and the RER, serves also as an interchange station for the Transilien Paris – Nord suburban rail line.
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Posted by allenwoow at 8:43 AM