Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
1814 - 1879


Mérimée, the Inspector-General of Historic Monuments, entrusted him with the restoration of the churches of Vézelay, Notre-Dame, Amiens, and Reims. In 1846, he was appointed architect of the Saint-Denis basilica. He also wrote two analytical dictionaries on architecture and medieval furniture.


A slab forming the top of a capital.


The main church of an abbey.

Abbot commendataire

Abbot who benefited from the commende, a personal share of the revenues from an abbey's mense.

André Lurçat
1894 - 1970

Architect and town planner. From 1934 to 1937 he worked in the USSR, in 1945, he was appointed chief architect for the town of Saint-Denis.

Ansate digitated (fibula)

Handle-shaped with an flat extension that is cut into finger shapes.


Used to turn aside evil influences.


In early Christian architecture, a courtyard surrounded by porticos that was placed in front of a church's façade. At Saint-Denis, the necropolis surrounded by galleries appears to have played the same role as the obligatory passageway for entering the basilica.


Diluted clay applied to the wall of a piece of pottery, either for covering the piece entirely or for creating a decorative pattern.

Barrel vault

Tunnel-shaped vault formed by a semi-circular arch.


In architecture, a rectangular church with a nave and side aisles; also the name given to certain privileged churches.


The part of an interior space that is included between two facing support points or arches.

Bernard de Clairvaux
1090 - 1153

Cistercian abbot, founder of the abbey of Clairvaux, adviser of the kings of France and the popes. He was canonized in 1174 and declared doctor of the Church in 1830.


A member of a religious order who lives according to the "Rule of Saint Augustine", and whose chapter is attached to a collegiate church.

Castellum Sancti Dionysii

Fortification built by Charles the Bald in 869 around the abbey of Saint-Denis; the zone delimited by the walls of this castellum.


Term describing saints who carry their own heads; it is used in reference to several martyrs who, after being decapitated, continued to praise God.


A popular beverage in the Middle Ages, similar to beer.

Chapter room

Room where assemblies of monks were held.


A fortress defending the Compoise Gate of the castellum sancti Dionysii, which became the seat of the criminal courts of the monastic town.


A state establishment created in 1939 that is under the supervision of the ministry in charge of research; the CNRS evaluates and carries out research for the advancement of science.

Cochet (or petit coq)

The nickname given to the standard measure, also known as the "griffon's claw", which the sergeants of the abbey used to check the units of measure of the taverns of Saint-Denis.


A dressed block of stone used to protect the top of a wall.


Piece of a hard material (such as flint) used for knapping. It is abandoned when it is no longer possible to make the desired products, for example the blades used by the Magdalenians.

Customary rights

Regional usages, as opposed to written law in the Roman tradition.


A silver coin and the basic unit of currency until the French Revolution.


A fake gem consisting of two rock crystal or glass lenses between which is placed a layer of color in function of the stone to be imitated (blue for a sapphire, green for an emerald, etc.).


Regional Office of Cultural Affairs.

Early Neolithic

Period between 4700 and 4000 BCE.

Electric prospection

Used to search for anomalies in soil resistivity and to detect buried vestiges based on procedures carried out above ground.

Experimental archaeology

A practice that consists of using experimentation to verify hypotheses based on the analysis of an archaeological vestige (discovering how archaeological objects were used and the way in which they were made, etc.).

Édouard Salin
1889 - 1970

Archaeologist, from a family of master blacksmiths from Lorraine. A connoisseur of metallurgic techniques, he specialized in the funerary archaeology of the High Middle Ages. From 1952 to 1957, he directed the archaeological exploration of the necropolis of Saint-Denis's basilica.


A brooch with a single pin on the back, used as a garment fastener.

François Debret
1777 - 1850

Brother of the historical painter Jean-Baptiste Debret, and student of Percier and Fontaine. In 1813, he was appointed architect of the Saint-Denis basilica and worked there for thirty-two years, until 1845.


Craftsperson that took woven woolen cloth and transformed it into felt by pressing and compressing it.

circa 710 - 784

A priest of aristocratic origins, he became abbot of Saint-Denis in 749 or 750. As the principal architect of the accession of Pepin the Short to the title of King of the Franks, Fulrad was the right-hand man of the Carolingians, who raised him to the position of Chaplain.

Germain Pilon
1528 - 1590

French sculptor born in Paris, one of the most important artists of the French Renaissance; created tomb sculpture in particular, including that of Henry II and Catherine de Medicis.

Gradine chisel

Sculptor's chisel with serrated edge.


Hymnal used in the mass.

Gregory of Tours

Bishop of Tours, he was the author of the Ten Books of History, better known as the History of the Franks, a major source for the history of Merovingian France.

Hand of Justice

Scepter topped with a hand.


Group of people living in the same household, which was used as the basis for calculating taxes.

circa 775 - 855/859

Monk who was appointed abbot of Saint-Denis in 814. He was promoted to archchaplain in 822. In 832 he imposed the sharing of the abbey's possessions between the abbot's estate and the monks' estate, allocating to the latter a certain number of in-kind tax payments. He was also the author of a Life of Saint Denis, which had a great influence on the worship and liturgy at Saint-Denis.

Hugues du Puiset

The lord of Puiset (Eure-et-Loir), who rebelled against Louis VI, who subjugated him in 1108.

Hypostyle room

Room whose ceiling is supported by columns.


National Geographic Institute.

Imperial chapter

Assembly of canons, instituted by the emperor Napoleon I.


National Preventive Archaeology Research: a Public Administration Establishment (EPA) created by the Law of 17 January 2001, placed under the twin supervision of the ministries for culture and research. The INRAP's mission is to carry out rescue archaeology operations as directed by the State.

Iron Age

Originally, this term was used to designate a period in European protohistory that was characterized by the use of iron metallurgy. It was coined by the Danish archaeologist C.J. Thomsen. Today, we know that this period followed the Bronze Age. In northern Europe, the Iron Age began around 750 BCE and ended in 52 BCE.


A variety of fossil carbon that can be cut and polished.

Jules Formigé

Senior architect for France's Monuments Historiques; he restored Roman-era monuments in Provence (Orange, Vaison-la-Romaine, and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence) and in 1942 he was named architect of Saint-Denis's basilica.

La Tène

An archaeological site on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, whose name is used to designate the period between 450 and 52 BCE. It is divided into three phases: Early, Middle and Late La Tène.


Fossil coal.


Accounts of the lives of the saints, also called hagiographies.

Maison Saint-Louis at Saint-Cyr

Founded in 1686 by the Marquise de Maintenon for the education of young girls of the nobility of limited means; Louis XIV granted the establishment the revenues of the Saint-Denis abbey's estate.

Maison Saint-Louis de Saint-Cyr

Founded in 1686 by the Marquise de Maintenon for the education of young girls of the nobility of limited means; Louis XIV granted the establishment the revenues of the Saint-Denis abbey's estate.


Large woven basket.


A liturgical book that lists the names of the saints.


Ecclesiastical revenue.


Slightly raised in relation to the surface.


Bones of the feet and hands (metatarsals et metacarpals) to which the digits (phalanxes) are attached.

Michel Fleury

Archivist-paleographer, vice president of Paris's Commission du Vieux-Paris, and Director of Historic Antiquities in Ile-de-France from 1965 to 1982. He directed the excavation of the square in front of Notre-Dame, the Cour Carrée at the Louvre and the necropolis of the Saint-Denis basilica.


Assets belonging to a serf to which a lord was entitled; a tax levied at the time of succession.


In architecture, a freestone element that divided the bay of a window, or constituted the spokes in a rose window.

Municipal franchise

Privilege granted by a lord to a community.


A register listing the dead for whom one prayed.

Open-air firing

Firing of pottery in the open air and directly on the ground, a method that is still practiced in certain areas of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Opus sectile

Pavement or wall decoration made of shaped tiles of colored marble, often assembled in a geometric pattern.


Reconstruction of a site's natural environment (climate, plant life, fauna, etc.) based on auxiliary sciences such as palynology (the study of pollens), paleocarpology (the study of plant vestiges), anthracology (the study of carbonized wood), among others.


Ancient arm of a river.


Book containing the text of services that had to be performed by a bishop.


The place where textiles were hung out to dry.


Nude young boy.

Regional Archaeology Office

State office under the authority of the regional cultural affairs directors and the regional prefects. On a regional level, the office carries out State archaeological missions. The office is headed up by an archaeological curator and ensures that legislation relative to archaeology is applied. Its mission is to study, protect, preserve and promote the archaeological heritage of the region.

Relative humidity (RH)

The amount of water vapor in the air, compared to the amount the air could hold if it was totally saturated (expressed as a percentage).

Rescue archaeology

This practice takes place prior to works or projects that are likely to damage vestiges preserved underground; interventions take the form of either diagnostics or excavations. The goal of rescue archaeology is to preserve and study significant elements of our archaeological heritage that are threatened by development.

Reticulated (decoration)

Having a net-like pattern. Term used to describe a décor consisting of twisted strips of colored glass

Robert de Cotte
1656 - 1735

French architect, student of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, with whom he collaborated in designing the Château de Versailles; in 1708, he was named Architect to the King.


Germanic tribe, a part of which colonized southern England. Those remaining on the continent were conquered by the Franks in 785.


Silver coin, equivalent to the Merovingian denier, which was struck in Frisia and England in the 7th and 8th centuries.


A short singled-edged sword, characteristic of Merovingian weaponry.


The sin of buying or selling ecclesiastical offices or preferments.




Assembly of vertical planks held in place by a tongue-and-groove system.

Sumner McKnight Crosby
1909 - 1982

Historian of medieval art and architecture from Yale University, a student of Marcel Aubert and Henri Focillon. Beginning in 1938, he led archaeological excavations in the Saint-Denis basilica.


Powdered oak bark used to prepare leather.

Thermo-remanent magnetism

  Amethod for dating fired clay, also called archaeomagnetism. In unfired clay, the grains display an arbitrary magnetic orientation. When the clay is heated, thermal agitation causes the magnetism to change. Certain grains are thus magnetized and align themselves parallel to the terrestrial magnetic field. The direction and intensity of the thermo-remanent magnetism are measured in order to date the firing of the clay. To date a potsherd by the direction of its thermo-remanent magnetism, it must have remained in situ since its firing.

toothed hammer

A stonecutter's tool fitted with two serrated cutting edges.


  A name derived from a place or geographic feature.


The transversal part of the church forming a cross with the nave.


A gold coin from the Merovingian era, worth one-third of a sou.

Trou provendier

Water supply point on the Rouillon used to feed the Croult canal and the sluice gate that distributed water to the various water sources inside the town.


Plural of the Latin tubulus. In Antiquity, terracotta pipes placed in a wall that brought hot air up from a hypocaust (a sort of underground furnace).


Site excavated in France's Aisne Valley, near Soisson. The name is used to designate the period from 4700 to 4600 BCE.

West front

The western part of a church placed opposite the choir and usually consisting of a porch or narthex, chapels on an upper floor, and towers.