The Basilica’s treasury, an assortment of disparate objects used in worship and items from collections bequeathed by wealthy abbots or kings, was among the most important ones in the Middle Ages.
Suger viewed the treasury as the church’s adornment. At the entrance to the current choir stood a cross that was almost seven metres high bearing a gilded silver Christ. For ceremonies, the chapels, which are now decorated with 13th-century altarpieces, were adorned with relics and valuable liturgical objects such as Eleanor of Aquitaine’s vase, Suger’s eagle or Charles the Bald’s porphyry bathtub, all of which are now at the Louvre. But these liturgical objects were also monetary reserves. Thus, in the 14th century, a Saint-Denis abbot did not hesitate to have a gold statue of Saint John melted down to pay for the services of the abbey’s butcher.
Regalia, the symbols of royal power used during coronations — crowns, sceptres and hands of justice — were also deposited in the abbey’s treasury.
Part of the treasury was melted down in 1793 and in Napoleonic times, but several exceptional pieces are today housed in the Louvre, the Cabinet des Médailles of the National Library of France and foreign museums. In the 19th century, Louis XVIII commissioned new objects for use as royal insignia during funeral ceremonies. These are on display in one of the Basilica’s chapels.