Built by the obsessively pious Louis IX (1226–70), this Gothic jewel is home to the oldest stained-glass windows in Paris. The chapel was constructed over three years, at phenomenal expense, to house the king's collection of relics acquired from the impoverished emperor of Constantinople. These included Christ's Crown of Thorns, fragments of the Cross, and drops of Christ's blood—though even in Louis's time these were considered of questionable authenticity. Some of the relics have survived and can be seen in the treasury of Notre-Dame, but most were lost during the Revolution.
The narrow spiral staircase by the entrance takes you to the upper chapel where the famed beauty of Sainte-Chapelle comes alive: 6,458 square feet of stained glass is delicately supported by painted stonework that seems to disappear in the colorful light streaming through the windows. Deep reds and blues dominate the background, noticeably different from later, lighter medieval
styles such as those of Notre-Dame's rose windows.
The chapel is essentially an enormous magic lantern illuminating 1,130 biblical figures. Its 15 windows—each 50-feet high—were dismantled and cleaned with laser technology during a 40-year restoration, completed in 2014 to coincide with the 800th anniversary of St. Louis’s birth. Besides the dazzling glass, observe the detailed carvings on the columns and the statues of the apostles. The lower chapel is gloomy and plain, but take note of the low, vaulted ceiling decorated with fleurs-de-lis and cleverly arranged Ls for Louis.
Sunset is the optimal time to see the rose window; however, to avoid waiting in killer lines, plan your visit for a weekday morning, the earlier the better.
Come on a sunny day to appreciate the full effect of the light filtering through all of that glorious stained glass. You can buy a joint ticket with the Conciergerie: lines are shorter if you purchase it there or online, though you'll still have to go through a longish metal detector line to get into Sainte-Chapelle itself. Sights aside, the chapel makes a divine setting for classical concerts; check the schedule at www.infoconcert.com.
4 bd. du Palais, Paris, 75001, France
Sep 1, 2014
Located inside the World Heritage site. Sainte-Chapelle (The Holy Chapel) and the Conciergerie are precious testimonies of what the palace of the kings of France was like from the 10th to the 14th century. Sainte-Chapelle, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, was commissioned by Saint Louis (Louis IX) in order to preserve the relics of the Passion of Christ. The building was extensively restored in the mid-19th century.The lower chapel is dedicated
to the Virgin, and carved decoration of the porch and the inside décor are from the 19th century. On the side walls, the sculptural medallions represent the 12 apostles with idealized faces. The scene of the Annunciation at the bottom left is the oldest mural in Paris. The golden lilies on a blue background and the starry sky vault are perfectly executed. The lower chapel was the palace staff’s place of worship. The decoration of the upper chapel is simply sumptuous. Sculptures and glass combine to glorify Christ's Passion. Its 15 windows (most of which are original) diffuse light in shades of red and blue, almost heavenly. They show, in 1,113 scenes, the history of humanity, from Genesis to the resurrection of Jesus. This is the most extraordinary collection of stained glass from the 13th century. They read from left to right and top to bottom. Connected to the palace, access to the upper chapel was reserved for the king, his family and the college of canons.
Nov 9, 2008
Small chapel with haunting blue vaulted lower floor, stunningly amazing stained glass in upper floor. Lines can be long here, as it's contained within a police station complex and the screening can be slow going. Very much worth the visit.