December 19, 2014

Royal Crypts – The Burial Places of European Monarchs

One of the reasons I love visiting Europe is its vast history. I am always awed by the depth of European history. This history is definitely intertwined with the lives of European Kings and Queens and I not only learn by visiting the places they lived but by seeing where they rest today.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy visiting cemeteries and royal crypts.

If you’re like me and enjoy visiting royal crypts, here are 6 that you may find interesting.

Speyer Cathedral, Germany

What Clovis I began in 1030 is today a symbol of Imperial power. Between this date and 1308 the cathedral became the burial site of 8 Emperors, Kings and their wives. The UNESCO World Heritage site is known as one of the most important Romanesque sites in Germany and the crypt is actually the largest Hall Crypt in Europe.
Speyer Cathedral Hall Crypt Germany

Speyer Cathedral Hall Crypt by Mussklprozz at de.wikipedia

Church of Our Lady in Laeken Belgium

This neo-Gothic Catholic church contains the Royal crypt that is the final resting place of the Belgian Royal family including the first King and Queen of Belgium, Leopold I and Louise-Marie. In fact, it was King Leopold I that originally had the church built in memory of his wife, Queen Louise-Marie. Built during the 19th century, today the Royal crypt holds the remains of all Belgian Kings.

Imperial Crypt Austria

The Imperial Crypt in Vienna has been the main burial site for the members of the Hapsburg family since 1622. It was Anna of Tyrol who, in her will, gave the funding for the crypt. Today it is one of the most visited places in all of Vienna. As I mentioned in The Hapsburgs: Living Large in Life and Death, this is the final resting place of 12 Emperors and 18 Empresses. The sarcophagi range from rather plain to very ornate and the amount of decoration seems to correlate to the importance of the person.
Crypt Charles VI Holy Roman Emperor Vienna Austria

Crypt of Charles VI Holy Roman Emperor

Roskilde Cathedral Denmark

The Roskilde Cathedral was constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries and is located on the island of Zealand. Besides being the main burial site of Danish Royalty this is the first Gothic cathedral to be built of brick. There are many burial chapels within the cathedral containing the remains of Danish royalty.
Roskilde Cathedral Crypt Denmark

Roskilde Dom by Fingalo

Westminster Abbey England

The oldest part of Westminster Abbey dates from 1050 and until 1760, this mainly Gothic church in London, was the burial place for English and British monarchs. The monarchs are buried inside the chapels of the church while other significant persons are buried in the cloisters and other areas on the grounds. Queen Elizabeth I and Bloody Queen Mary are among the monarchs buried in the Abbey.
Tomb Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York Westminster Abbey London England

Tomb Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York by lisby1, on Flickr

St Denis Basilica France

Located near Paris, this medieval Abbey was a burial place of French Kings and their families from the 10th – 18th centuries. In fact, all but three Kings of France are buried here many in “cadaver tombs”. These double-decker tombs have the person’s effigy on top and a decomposing effigy underneath. Among those buried hear include Clovis I and what remains of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
St Denis Cathedral France

St Denis by Roi Boshi

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  14. Leigh says:

    I’ve only seen Westminster Abbey but I think these places sound very interesting to visit. Some definitely have become tourist destinations but nonetheless if I were in Europe I’d be visiting.
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  15. I’ve seen Westminster Abbey (but didn’t want to pay to go in).
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  16. I also am fascinated by old cemeteries and the crypts in old cathedrals. I know they can seem maudlin places to be interested in visiting, but I don’t think it’s disrespectful. In the Western tradition, nobles weren’t surrounded by opulence in death as offerrings for them to use in the afterlife. They had themselves buried in grand style in public places, so they could still impress (inspire awe) in the living from beyond.
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Yes, they were definitely still trying to impress the masses, weren’t they? I think they succeeded too!

  17. Andrea says:

    Wow, these are certainly ornate. I find it eerie that they are above ground…
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  18. The Imperial Crypt in Vienna is really very special. For me it is really interesting that there are still fresh wreaths in front of the grave of Empress ‘Sisi’ Elisabeth of Austria who died in 1898. Generally the colors at the wreaths are not the Austrian but the Hungarian ones.
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I agree, the Imperial Crypt in Vienna is very interesting. Its like traveling through the ages. Sisi is still very popular both in Austria and Hungary. I enjoyed learning more about her on my last trip to Vienna.

  19. Ele says:

    I have been to Westminster Abbey and I was touched by the immense beauty of it. I have also been to Saint Denis to see the memorial to Marie-Antoinette.
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I am always amazed at the amount of history inside Westminster Abbey! I’ve not included St. Denis in my day trips from Paris, yet.

  20. Marlys says:

    Ooo, sorry, not me. It always gives me the creeps going into crypts. I try to stay away or hurry through. I know many like visiting graves, but I feel like I’m dishonouring the people buried in the cemeteries turned into tourist destinations.
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