Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis


The Canal Saint-Denis with swing bridge, pedestrian overpass leading to the Stade de France and the Basilique Saint-Denis in the background.

Coat of arms

Coordinates: 48°56′08″N 2°21′14″E / 48.9356°N 2.3539°E / 48.9356; 2.3539Coordinates: 48°56′08″N 2°21′14″E / 48.9356°N 2.3539°E / 48.9356; 2.3539
Country France
Region Île-de-France
Department Seine-Saint-Denis
Arrondissement Saint-Denis
Intercommunality Plaine Commune Agglomeration Community Until the planned dissolution of the combined community on December 31, 2015 in light of the creation of the Grand Paris on January 1st 2016.[1]
  Mayor (2014–2020) Didier Paillard
Area1 12.36 km2 (4.77 sq mi)
Population 2 109,408
  Density 8,900/km2 (23,000/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
INSEE/Postal code 93066 / 93200, 93210 (La Plaine)
Elevation 23–46 m (75–151 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Saint-Denis (French pronunciation: [sɛ̃.d(ə).ni]) is a commune in the northern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 9.4 km (5.8 mi) from the centre of Paris. Saint-Denis is a subprefecture (French: sous-préfecture) of the department of Seine-Saint-Denis, being the seat of the arrondissement of Saint-Denis.

Saint-Denis is home to the royal necropolis of the Basilica of Saint Denis and was also the location of the associated abbey. It is also home to France's national football and rugby stadium, the Stade de France, built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

Saint-Denis is a formerly industrial suburb currently changing its economic base. Inhabitants of Saint-Denis are called Dionysiens.[2]


Location of Saint-Denis in Metropolitan Paris.

Until the 3rd century, Saint-Denis was a small settlement called Catolacus or Catulliacum, probably meaning "estate of Catullius", a Gallo-Roman landowner. About 250 AD, the first bishop of Paris, Saint Denis, was martyred on Montmartre hill and buried in Catolacus. Shortly after 250 his grave became a shrine and a pilgrimage centre, with the building of the Abbey of Saint Denis, and the settlement was renamed Saint-Denis.

In 1793, during the French Revolution, Saint-Denis was renamed Franciade in a gesture of rejection of religion. In 1803, however, under the Consulate of Napoléon Bonaparte, the city reverted to its former name of Saint-Denis.


During its history, Saint-Denis has been closely associated with the French royal house. Starting from Dagobert I (c. 603 639), almost every French king was buried in the Basilica.

However, Saint-Denis is older than that. In the 2nd century, there was a Gallo-Roman village named Catolacus on the location that Saint-Denis occupies today. Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris and patron saint of France, was martyred in about 250 and buried in the cemetery of Catolacus. Denis' tomb quickly became a place of worship.

Around 475, Sainte Geneviève had a small chapel erected on Denis' tomb, which by then had become a popular destination for pilgrims.

It was this chapel that Dagobert I had rebuilt and turned into a royal monastery. Dagobert granted many privileges to the monastery: independence from the bishop of Paris, the right to hold a market, and, most importantly, he was buried in Saint-Denis; a tradition which was followed by almost all his successors.

During the Middle Ages, because of the privileges granted by Dagobert, Saint-Denis grew to become very important. Merchants from all over Europe (and indeed from the Byzantine Empire) came to visit its market.

In 1140, Abbot Suger, counselor to the King, granted further privileges to the citizens of Saint-Denis. He also started the work of enlarging the Basilica of Saint Denis that still exists today, often cited as the first example of high early Gothic Architecture.[3][4] The new church was consecrated in 1144.

Saint-Denis suffered heavily in the Hundred Years' War; of its 10,000 citizens, only 3,000 remained after the war.

During the French Wars of Religion, the Battle of Saint-Denis was fought between Catholics and Protestants on 10 November 1567. The Protestants were defeated, but the Catholic commander Anne de Montmorency was killed. In 1590, the city surrendered to Henry IV, who converted to Catholicism in 1593 in the abbey of Saint-Denis.

King Louis XIV (1638–1715) started several industries in Saint-Denis: weaving and spinning mills and dyehouses. His successor, Louis XV (1710–1774), whose daughter was a nun in the Carmelite convent, took a lively interest in the city: he added a chapel to the convent and also renovated the buildings of the royal abbey.

During the French Revolution, not only was the city renamed "Franciade" from 1793 to 1803, but the royal necropolis was looted and destroyed. The remains were removed from the tombs and thrown together; during the French Restoration, since they could not be sorted out anymore, they were reburied in a common ossuary.

Saint-Denis in 1830.

The last king to be interred in Saint-Denis was Louis XVIII (1755 – 1824). After France became a republic and an empire, Saint-Denis lost its association with royalty.

On 1 January 1860, the city of Paris was enlarged by annexing neighboring communes. On that occasion, the commune of La Chapelle-Saint-Denis was disbanded and divided between the city of Paris, Saint-Denis, Saint-Ouen, and Aubervilliers. Saint-Denis received the north-western part of La Chapelle-Saint-Denis.

During the 19th century, Saint-Denis became increasingly industrialized. Transport was much improved: in 1824 the Canal Saint-Denis was constructed, linking the Canal de l'Ourcq in the northeast of Paris to the River Seine at the level of L'Île-Saint-Denis, and in 1843 the first railway reached Saint-Denis. By the end of the century, there were 80 factories in Saint-Denis.

The presence of so many industries also gave rise to an important socialist movement. In 1892, Saint-Denis elected its first socialist administration, and by the 1920s, the city had acquired the nickname of la ville rouge, the red city. Until Jacques Doriot in 1934, all mayors of Saint-Denis were members of the Communist Party.

During the Second World War, after the defeat of France, Saint-Denis was occupied by the Germans on 13 June 1940. There were several acts of sabotage and strikes, most notably on 14 April 1942 at the Hotchkiss factory. After an insurgency which started on 18 August 1944, Saint-Denis was liberated by General Leclerc on 27 August 1944.

After the war, the economic crisis of the 1970s and 1980s hit the city, which was heavily dependent on its heavy industry.

During the 1990s, however, the city started to grow again. The 1998 FIFA World Cup provided an enormous impulse; the main stadium for the tournament, the Stade de France, was built in Saint-Denis, along with many infrastructural improvements, such as the extension of the metro to Saint-Denis-Université. The stadium is used by the national football and rugby teams for friendly matches. The Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue and Top 14 final matches are held there, as well as the Meeting Areva international athletics event.

Rue Gabriel Péri, a pedestrian zone in Saint-Denis, in 2012.

Since 2000, Saint-Denis works together with seven neighbouring communes (Aubervilliers, Villetaneuse, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, Épinay-sur-Seine, L'Île-Saint-Denis (since 2003), Stains (since 2003) and La Courneuve (since 2005) in Plaine Commune.

In 2003, together with Paris, Saint-Denis hosted the second European Social Forum.

On 13–14 November 2015, Saint-Denis was the main location of a series of mass shootings and hostage-takings just outside the Stade de France. On 18 November, a major follow-up raid occurred. Several suspects were killed, including alleged mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud.[5]

In 2016, Saint-Denis was one of the host cities of the UEFA European Football Championships, including the opening game.[6]




Place of birth of residents of Saint-Denis in 1999
Born in Metropolitan France Born outside Metropolitan France
64.4% 35.6%
Born in
Overseas France
Born in foreign countries with French citizenship at birth1 EU-15 immigrants2 Non-EU-15 immigrants
4.3% 2.5% 5.5% 23.3%
1This group is made up largely of former French settlers, such as pieds-noirs in Northwest Africa, followed by former colonial citizens who had French citizenship at birth (such as was often the case for the native elite in French colonies), and to a lesser extent foreign-born children of French expatriates. Note that a foreign country is understood as a country not part of France in 1999, so a person born for example in 1950 in Algeria, when Algeria was an integral part of France, is nonetheless listed as a person born in a foreign country in French statistics.
2An immigrant is a person born in a foreign country not having French citizenship at birth. Note that an immigrant may have acquired French citizenship since moving to France, but is still considered an immigrant in French statistics. On the other hand, persons born in France with foreign citizenship (the children of immigrants) are not listed as immigrants.


As of 2008 18.1% of the population of Saint-Denis was Maghrebian.[7] Melissa K. Brynes, author of French Like Us? Municipal Policies and North African Migrants in the Parisian Banlieues, 1945–1975, wrote that in the middle of the 20th century, "few of [the Paris-area communes with North African populations] were as engaged with their migrant communities as the Dionysiens."[8]


Saint-Denis is served by Metro, RER, tram, and Transilien connections. The Saint-Denis rail station, built in 1846, was formerly the only one in Saint-Denis, but today serves as an interchange station for the Transilien Paris – Nord (Line H) suburban rail line and RER line D.[9]

Paris Métro Line 13:

Tramways in Île-de-France:

Regional Rail:


Saint-Denis and its surrounding areas are infamous in France for their crime rate. In 2005 it had 150.71 criminal incidents per 1000 inhabitants, far higher than the national average (83 per 1000) and higher than its department of Seine-Saint-Denis (95.67 per 1000). Police efficiency has been reported as very low, with only 19.82% of crimes solved by the police.


Saint-Denis has 29 public preschools/nursery schools (écoles maternelles).[10] Saint-Denis has 30 public elementary schools (écoles élémentaires), with one of those schools (École Élémentaire Maria Casarès) being an intercommunal school.[11] Saint-Denis has eight public junior high schools (collèges).[12] Saint-Denis has the following senior high schools/sixth-form colleges: Lycée Bartholdi, Lycée Paul Éluard, Lycée Suger, and Lycée d’application de l’E.N.N.A.[13]

Saint-Denis has one private elementary, middle, and high school (Ensemble Scolaire Jean-Baptiste de la Salle-Notre Dame de la Compassion) and one private middle and high school (Collège et lycée Saint-Vincent-de-Paul).[12][13]


Points of interest

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Saint-Denis is twinned with:


  1. Grand Paris
  2. "Saint-Denis - Habitants".
  3. Rolf, Toman (ed.) (2004). Der Gothisch. Ullmann & Könemann
  4. Swaan, Wim (1969). The Gothic Cathedral
  5. Irish, John; Blachier, Gregory (19 November 2015). "'Spider in web' mastermind of Paris attacks killed in raid". Reuters. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  6. "Saint-Denis getting in the mood for EURO". 13 June 2015.
  7. Maxwell, Rahsaan Daniel. Tensions and Tradeoffs: Ethnic Minority Migrant Integration in Britain and France. ProQuest, 2008. p. 197. ISBN 0549874585, 9780549874584.
  8. Byrnes, Melissa K. French Like Us? Municipal Policies and North African Migrants in the Parisian Banlieues, 1945–1975. ProQuest, 2008. ISBN 0549741224, 9780549741220. p. 283.
  9. "carnet02".
  10. "La liste des écoles maternelles de Saint-Denis." Saint-Denis. Retrieved on 1 February 2012.
  11. "La liste des écoles élémentaires de Saint-Denis." Saint-Denis. Retrieved on 1 February 2012.
  12. 1 2 "Les collèges dans la ville." Saint-Denis. Retrieved on 31 January 2012.
  13. 1 2 "Les lycées dans la ville." Saint-Denis. Retrieved on 31 January 2012.
  14. 1 2 Gross, Joan, David McMurray, and Ted Swedenburg. "Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Rai, Rap, and Franco-Maghrebi Identities" (Anthropology: Postcolonial Studies). In: Lavie, Smadar and Ted Swedenburg. Displacement, Diaspora, and Geographies of Identity. Duke University Press, 1996. ISBN 0822317206, 9780822317203. p. 142.

Further reading

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