Saturday, January 9, 2010
THE LEGEND OF SAINT DENIS
The name "Montmartre" comes from the old name of "Mont des Martyrs", Mountain of the Martyrs, because it was here where the first martyrs of Paris, the bishop St. Denis, the priest Rustique and the arch-deacon Eleuthère (or Rusticus and Eleutherius) were decapitated by the Romans around 250-258 A.D. The Romans had built temples to Mercury and Mars on this hill and they didn't take kindly to Christians moving in.
Legend has it that St. Denis went on to pick up his head, wash it off and carry it 8 kilometres (about 4 miles) to the north to what is now the town of St. Denis before he finally dropped. A shrine was built on the spot which was replaced by the beautiful Basilica of St. Denis. This basilica became the place of burial for the kings of France. Most of the French kings from Dagobert I (reign 629-639) to Louis XVIII (reign 1814-1824) are buried here.