Saint Denis Basilique
The primitive gothic narthex was completed in 1140; the choir, apse and radial chapels in 1144, and the rayonnant choir superstructure, transept, transept roses and nave were completed from 1231 to1281 A.C.E.
St. Denis is an ancestral home in many respects. All of the churches upon which the basilique now rests were places of pilgrimage to St. Denis, the first bishop of France, the protector of the country. It is also the necropolis of the French kings, 79 of which were buried here.
St. Denis was also the residence of Abbot Suger, the only man ever to be entitled "Father of the Nation", an honor bestowed by Louis VII in tribute to Suger's extraordinary efforts toward a peaceful unification of France, and most especially to the new movement he ignited, the spiritual architecture that came to be called "gothic".
If one could sum up the French national soul in those years, it would have to be called "the gothic cathedral". The people of France put their heart and soul into its inauguration. As a nation, they contributed 1/3 of the gross national resources to this effort. The most conspicuous man behind this unprecedented surge was Abbot Suger. Not only did Suger contribute to the cathedrals' inceptions in an organizational manner, but he actually helped to formulate the form and shape that they were to take. As a disciple of the theological works of St. Denis the Pseudo-Areopagite (St. Denis the Greek) who affirmed "God is Light", Suger once again declared, "Let there be Light", and the gothic cathedral was born, not as an architecture but as a theological idea. Even the gothic cathedrals which came soon after St. Denis (Sens, Noyon, Paris) did not achieve the volume of light and lightness in architecture of St. Denis' east. The wheel window over the west porch is thought to be the first one to be filled with stained glass. If this is true, it must be considered as the mother-seed of the rose windows. St. Denis was ahead of its time, even as an initiator. As such, its power and depth can scarcely be appreciated without looking over its long life-line. At times it seems to hibernate, only to burst upon the scene with an influence resounding to the limits of its own sphere; at another point the impulse spreads to touch the world.
About eighty years after Suger's passing, St. Denis was again chosen as the site to introduce the new direction in the gothic movement. Recent serious studies have finally been able to replace the folklore concerning the emergence of new forms, stories that were perpetrated by romantic imagination. After tedious investigation of the work itself, conclusive evidence points to St. Denis as the first experiment in the rayonnant form. The choir was elevated, new transepts were added in which the first rayonnant roses appeared, and the entire triforium level was glazed, all a statement of the ultimate spread of light. Suger would have been thrilled to see the injunction that gave birth to the gothic idea return with such force of life.
Time passed again and St. Denis slumbered into a state of extreme decrepitude. It was rudely awakened by the clanging and banging of Napoleon's "restoration" crew, bent on converting it into his own fanciful mausoleum. Its redecoration paced exactly Napoleon's personal fortune and popularity, but the work itself accelerated from the fanciful to the absurd until public outrage brought it to a halt. Over the next fifty years, architects came and went, some more disastrous than others. Finally work had to coast through bare modicums, waiting for the head architect to die, so great was the concern for his irresponsibility.
The ethics of architecture had been stung to the quick. A committee dedicated to historical propriety formed, the first ever to exist. Their directive was to foster work based on the original structure and intention of the monument's space. This was a totally new idea.
A different task-force regrouped at St. Denis; it was to be the first ancient construction to be restored to its original form, insofar as possible. This work continues today, not only at St. Denis but around the world.
Because of St. Denis, professionals and people of all persuasions reconnected to timeless values. Messages of transcendental insight are being preserved from the wilds of Scotland to the jungles of Java. The United Nations has applied for protective participation and financial support of these priceless artefacts. The world is coming to realize that to return to inspirations capable of moving the mind and heart of humanity is not a quaint notion, but an effort worth our best.
No wonder that St. Denis is filled with an air of returning. Returning to an originating impulse, through death, through light - the "coming forth into day" of the ancient Egyptians.
The point at this abbey is that when one is working in the domain of seed ideas there is no returning to a "past". When one contacts the seed, because the seed is whole, one is immediately filled-in with everything from the inception in the "past" to the actuality of the "present". If one is trying to return, one cannot go back to "before", the inception. To return to the seed is only to be in an "extended present".
This is the difficulty in trying to work with prototypes within the context of cause-and-effect. One must assume that there is an inherent cause for an inception, and such a step may be a valid and knowledgeable doing, but not necessarily to a comprehension not confined to the limits of perceiving reality as absolutely relying upon cause-and-effect to be as it is.
Power Points In Playful Spaces
For those who can sense the interplay of geometric relationships which are built up on the addition and cancellation of angular resonances, there is an interesting area to check out in the crypt. There's definitely a noticeable difference between the quality or center of gravity for this space, as compared with all the other areas down below. Very tangible and active for those who are available. Describing how it is possible for one to be conscious of seemingly "invisible" apparencies, one has to understand that the sensory capability is not the only possible means by which a human may be conscious. Being conscious of inter-relations and finding the common point of rest in such a set of relations is the doorway into a totally "different" way of being conscious. Conscious in a way that allows one to live life interpenetrated with, yet discreet from, sensory-apparatus oriented life and its compulsions/necessities.
Those who have discovered, or more correctly, re-discovered these potentials within the human vehicle have been able to express this development very subtly through various means, one of which happens to be architecture, and in this instance, gothic architecture. By using the refined capabilities resulting from being conscious of these places of rest produced by the angular additions/cancellations (which are but analogies of how the various senses inter-relate) and thereby arranging the volume, shape and particular components of a space to produce a specific restorial resonant with the active as well as latent potentials of the human vehicle (which latent potentials do have connections with the senses), it would be possible not only to awaken the already existing apparatuses presently functioning, but also to stimulate an activating impulse for growth in the latent aspects, if those who built such architectural spaces had stabilized this potential set of new relations to life in a responsible and conscience oriented manner within themselves.
Sometimes even though humans weren't capable of producing these types of environments, they discovered naturally occurring places on and within the planet which had the property of helping to stimulate and trigger transformations leading to growth in these inner human potentials. Sacred monuments, temples, churches and mosques were built on top of such places. And perhaps, in time, because they knew the result they wanted to achieve (using the effect of the natural space as a control), they were thus able to produce the same triggering effects in being conscious, in a more or less predictable fashion, through various artifices. Some of them still work to a greater or lesser extent today.
The vibes in St. Denis' crypt chamber may be due to a natural power point or to the architectural structure of the space, or both. There are power centers that exist in the open (the magnetic poles); ones which are maintained because of an event (Lourdes); ones that accumulate because of the activities there (Mecca, Benares); and those which are intentionally constructed (Giza, Teotihuacan, Tikal, Palenque, Angkor, Borobodur, Chaco, Chartres, Konya, Isfahan); or combinations of all the above.