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Saint-Denis, a martyr turned into a myth in Montmartre

July 18, 2012

Saint-Denis was the first bishop of Paris. He dedicated his life to help spread Catholicism in France and especially the capital,or Lutece as it was called back then. The Romans then controlled the city and felt threatened  by the action of the bishop. Saint-Denis was thus arrested alongside some of his catholic counterparts, Rustique and Eleuthere, jailed on the Ile de la Cite and sentenced to death.

The execution happened in 270, in Montmartre, rue Yvonne le Tac, near the current “Place des Abbesses”.  Initially, it was supposed to take place in front of a temple dedicated to Mercury at the top of the hill but the soldiers didn’t have the courage to climb all the way up…

As the legend goes, Saint-Denis picked up his head just after being beheaded, and walked up and down the Montmartre hill, heading north and walking 6 kilometers to the current city of Saint-Denis. The Saint-Denis Basilica is said to have been edified during the 5th century at the exact place where the bishop finally collapsed and died. At the time, a chapel was also built in Montmartre to celebrate his memory.

The history of Montmartre is closely linked to that of  Saint-Denis and many famous landmarks are a testimony to the Saint’s martyr.

– The rue du Mont-Cenis was previously named rue Saint-Denis and is said to follow the same route Saint-Denis took after being beheaded

– The “rue des Martyrs” was named after Saint-Denis

– The name “Montmartre” is said to be a short name for “Mont du Martyr” (The martyr’s mount)

– The statue of Saint-Denis with his head in his hands in the square Suzanne Buisson

– The Saint-Denis crypt on rue Yvonne le Tac

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2012 4:46 pm

    C’est ainsi que je connaissais la légende, l’histoire des rues exceptée.
    Chapeau pour la traduction en anglais 🙂
    Bonne soirée.

  2. July 18, 2012 4:48 pm


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