Suger (born in 1081 near Paris—died January 13, 1151), a French abbot and counsellor to monarchs Louis VI and VII, whose direction of the erection of the abbey church of Saint-Denis was essential in the development of the Gothic architectural style. His greatest achievement is considered by many to be the design for the choir of that church, which he planned to have been the largest room in Europe at the time it was built.
Abbot Suger was one of the most important architects of his time. He was also a writer, poet, painter, and musician. In addition to being the founder of the monastery that would come to be known as the Abbey of St. -Denis, he is best remembered for his writings on architecture and music. The first part of his De Gestis Consularum Romanorum or "Accounts of the Rulers" covers the years 568 to 798 and was probably written between 1107 and 1122. This historical work describes several major construction projects in France and abroad, including bridges, roads, and buildings such as churches and monasteries.
He also wrote Le Dit des Songes or "The Song of Songs", which is a collection of poems made up mainly of descriptions of nature scenes and imaginary conversations. These poems were widely read in medieval France, where they were considered to have prophetic powers.
Suger's principal purpose as abbot, appointed in 1122, was to glorify God and St. Denis via the embellishment of his cathedral. Suger's tremendous desire led to the extensive reconstruction of the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis, establishing his name as associated with the beginnings of Gothic art and architecture in France. He is regarded as one of the most important architects of the early Middle Ages.
Abbot Suger wanted to create a church that would be worthy of its French location near the capital city of Paris. The new church was to be magnificent and elaborate, but also functional and accessible for many people. The abbey church was not only to be beautiful but also used by many people daily. The nave was to be large enough for 15,000 people to worship together; the choir was to have space for eight thousand monks.
The original church had been built around 511 on the site of a former pagan temple. It was not until 563 that the first stone church was completed. This first structure was almost entirely made up of wooden beams without any solid walls. By 590, there were already signs that the first version was becoming too small, so work began on the second church about 300 feet away. This new building was also made of wood, but now it was used for storage instead of worshipping thousands of people. In 614, the first stone tower was added to the west end of this second church.
Suger's reconstructions incorporated traditional Gothic characteristics such as pointed arches, flying buttresses, clustered columns, and, most crucially, stained glass windows. The abbey became a popular place for French kings to be buried, and all but three of France's rulers were interred there. Louis IX, the father of Saint Louis, is the only non-Christian ruler buried at the abbey.
In addition to being a religious site, the abbey also served as a fortress during times of war. It was first built by St. Benedict around 538 AD, in response to attacks on churches by Germanic tribes. The abbey took its current form between 1163 and 1220 under the leadership of Abbot Suger, who was one of the greatest architects of his time.
One of Suger's main ideas for building a Gothic cathedral was to use natural light instead of candles or torches for illumination. He believed that only by doing this could you achieve true beauty in architecture. Another idea he had was to have a central tower that would contain various rooms for monks to live in. This would help reduce crime by providing young men with a place to go after school or work. A third idea was to build bridges over rivers or other bodies of water so that travelers could more easily reach the monastery from far away. Last, he wanted to include large stained-glass windows because he thought that they were very beautiful.
What was Suger's motivation for rebuilding the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis? He aspired to create a work of art worthy of the church's sacred relics. He also wanted to establish a major European center of learning with schools, libraries, and laboratories where artists would be trained.
Suger believed that since biblical times no other building had brought glory to God or increased the number of His followers like the abbey. As head of the monastery he wanted to do everything in his power to preserve the community of monks who lived there in peace and harmony with their neighbors. The rebuilding of the church was therefore intended not only to provide more space but also as an expression of faith in Christ and His saints.
The new church was not just a place of worship but also included educational facilities such as a library, lecture halls, and workshops where monks could learn skills they might need to run a business or manage some property. There are examples of printed books from this time period made here in the Abbey library. These include works by Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great.
In addition to manuscripts, the library at Saint-Denis contained collections of natural history items, including bones, shells, plants, and minerals. Some of these were donated by wealthy individuals who wished to honor Jesus or their own family members.