Choir and Ambulatory

General Views toward East

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Looking north-east from 
south ambulatory 

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Choir Vault

Around the Ambulatory from north to south.

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View to ambulatory from north transept

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View to ambulatory from Chapel of Saint Firmin

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    North ambulatory 

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Chapel Vault 

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Chapel Vaults

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Ambulatory Vaults

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View to ambulatory 

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South ambulatory from transept

Text from On His Administration, by Abbot Suger of Saint Denis

Translated by David Burr, History Department, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, and reproduced here with his kind permission.

XXIV. Concerning the Decoration of the Church

Having thus assigned these increases in the revenue, we turned back to the memorable construction of buildings, so that through this activity thanks might be given to almighty God by us and our successors, and enthusiasm for its continuation and, if necessary, for its completion should be fired by good example. For neither poverty nor opposition by any power is to be feared if one securely makes use of one's own resources through love for the holy martyrs.

Therefore, by divine inspiration, the first work we did on the church was as follows. Because the walls were old and threatened to weaken in some places, having summoned the best painters we could find from various places, we devoutly had the walls repaired and worthily painted with gold and costly colors. I carried this task out all the more gladly because, even when I was a student, I had wanted to do so if ever I had the opportunity.

XXV. Concerning the First Addition to the Church

Even while this was being carried out at great expense, however, because of the inadequacy we often felt on special days such as the feast of the blessed Denis, the fair, and many other times, when the narrowness of the place forced women to run to the altar on the heads of men as on a pavement with great anguish and confusion; for this reason, moved by divine inspiration and encouraged by the council of wise men as well as the prayers of many monks, in order to avoid the displeasure of the holy martyrs I undertook to enlarge and amplify the noble monastic church consecrated by the divine hand, devoutly praying both in our chapter and in church that he who is beginning and end, alpha and omega, should join a good end with a good beginning by way of a sound middle, and that he might not exclude from the building of the temple a bloody man who wholeheartedly desired this more than the treasures of Constantinople. Thus we began with the former main entrance, dismantling a certain addition said to have been built by Charlemagne on a very worthy occasion, because his father, the Emperor Pepin, had ordered that he be buried outside that entrance, face down, for the sins of his father Charles Martel. As is obvious, we exerted ourselves, vehemently enlarging the body of the church, tripling the entrance and doors, and erecting tall, worthy towers.

XXVI. Concerning the Dedication

We managed to have the chapel of St. Romanus dedicated to the service of God and his holy angels by that venerable man Archbishop Hugh of Rouen and by many other bishops. Those who serve God there as if, even as they sacrifice, they dwell at least partly in heaven, know how secluded, hallowed and convenient for the celebration of divine rites this place is. At the same dedication ceremony, two chapels in the lower nave of the church - one for St. Hippolytus and his companions on one side and one for St. Nicholas on the other - were dedicated by those venerable men Manassas, Bishop of Meaux, and Peter, Bishop of Senlis. The single glorious procession of these three men went out through the door of Saint Eustace; then passed in front of the main doors with a throng of singing clergy and a crowd of rejoicing laymen, the bishops walking in front and carrying out the holy consecration; then, thirdly, they entered through the single door of the cemetery which had been transferred from the old building to the new. And when this festive work had been completed to the honor of almighty God and we, a bit tired, were preparing to officiate in the upper part, they revived us, very graciously encouraging us not to be depressed by consideration of the labor and funding problems that lay before us. XXVIII. Concerning the Enlargement of the Upper Choir

In the same year, cheered by so holy and auspicious a work, we hurried to begin on the upper part of the chamber of divine atonement, in which the perpetual and frequent victim of our redemption should be sacrificed in secret without disturbance by the crowds. And as can be found in the treatise on the consecration of this upper part, we, along with our brothers and fellow servants, were mercifully enabled to bring such a glorious and famous work to a favorable conclusion, God having aided us and given success to us and our endeavors. We were all the more indebted to God and the holy martyrs inasmuch as he, by long postponement, had reserved the task for our age and labor. "For who am I, and what is my father's house" (I Kings 18:18) that I should have presumed to begin or hoped to complete such a noble, pleasing edifice unless, relying upon the aid of divine mercy and of the holy martyrs, I applied myself completely, mind and body, to the enterprise? Yet he who gave the will also provided the power, and because the good work was present in the will, it came to perfection with God's help.

That the divine hand which accomplished such things protected this glorious work is shown by the fact that it allowed the entire magnificent edifice, from the crypt below to the summit of the vaults above, varied by the division of numerous arches and columns, and even the roof, to be completed in three years and three months. Thus the inscription of the earlier consecration, with only one word added, would include the year of completion of this building: The year when it was consecrated was the one thousand, one hundred, forty and fourth year of the Word.

To these verses of the inscription we decided to add the following:

When the new rear part is joined to that in front,
The church shines, brightened in its middle.
For bright is that which is brightly coupled with the bright
And which the new light pervades,
Bright is the noble work enlarged in our time
I, who was Suger, having been leader
While it was accomplished.

Eager, therefore, to follow up on my successes, since I desired nothing under heaven except to pursue the honor of mother church - which had suckled the babe with maternal affection, supported the stumbling youth, powerfully strengthened the mature man, and solemnly placed him among the leaders of church and kingdom - we applied ourselves to completion of the work and plunged into the task of raising the transept wings of the church to correspond with the earlier and later parts which would be joined together by them. 

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Last updated by:JV Date: November 29, 2006