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Basilica of St Denis

Louis XVII heart

Louis, second son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. He was recognised by Europe’s royal courts in 1793 as Louis XVII until his death in 1795. 

The Chapelle des Bourbons was a XIXth century creation. It contains cenotaphs, that is, funerary monuments which do not contain a body. The cenotaph of Louis XVII was one of a series of such constructions designed by the architect Debret and faces that of his elder brother, who died prematurely shortly before the Revolution.

The ritual burial of the heart of Louis XVII was organised by the Mémorial de France in Saint-Denis during a funeral mass on June 8, 2004. The heart is said to have been secretly removed by the chief surgeon at the Hôtel-Dieu, Philippe-Jean Pelletan, the day after the child’s death.

Placed in a crystal vase it was preserved and then dried out because the alcohol in which it was immersed had evaporated. It was passed from hand to hand and has been in the Basilica since 1975. During the June 8, 2004 ceremony it was placed under the medallion bearing a portrait of the young king.

Also in the basilica: The prayer of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

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