This abbey had the largest basilica built during the Carolingian era, that period in the history of France that coincided with the reign of Charlemagne.
Currently this ancient monastery located in Centula in northern France has nothing to do with the original one that was built between 790 and 799, but it is they have enough documentary data, in the form of drawings and descriptions, to have made numerous virtual reconstructions like the one seen in the illustration that heads this text.
Reconstruction Saint Riquier
We know that Charlemagne himself was very actively involved in the construction of this temple, and whenever requested by the abbot Angelbert, a member of the palatine academy, sent him economic resources, material means and even artists to create this religious building which, together with the Palatine Chapel of Aachen and the Lorsch Portico Tower are the greatest architectural achievements of Carolingian art, a style with its own personality within the set of pre-Romanesque artistic currents.
Saint Riquier Ensemble
The complex was a whole monastery that had three different churches, under the patronage of San Benito, Santa María and El Salvador. Actually applied herethe word claustrum to the entire monastery complex, which occupied a kind of triangle at the ends of which were three churches.
Of these three temples the first is the smallest, while the second is similar to the Chapel of Aachen, and the last was the newest part of the whole set, since at its ends it had two towers crowned by three-body lanterns. Actually, there was a monastery, three churches and two different cults. On one side to the east, the sanctuary dedicated to Saint Riquier and to the west the one dedicated to the Savior.
In these sanctuaries it can be seen that for Carolingian architecture the nave of the temples had little importance, and they were generally a short space that served as a passageway to the altars children.
Saint Riquier Abbey today
Another novelty that was proposed in this construction was that a church-porch was created on the western side, over the crypt, with its own altar surrounded by galleries. This model would be used in other later porch-churches, as is the case of Corvey Abbey, already built in the 9th century, but unlike Saint Riquier, it is still preserved today.