Sainte-Chapelle, meaning ‘holy chapel’, was once the chapel of King Louis IX. Sainte-Chapelle was constructed to house the king’s newly acquired Passion relics—the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the True Cross. The architecture of Saint-Chapelle is one of the best examples of the Rayonnant period Gothic style, which is characterized by strong vertical emphasis. The chapel’s architect was never documented and thus the building has been attributed to several designers over the years, but the true architect remains unknown.
At the time of construction in 1248, Sainte-Chapelle was located in the courtyard of the royal palace. This positioning mimicked that of Charlemagne’s palatine chapel at Aachen. In gaining the relics and constructing the grand chapel in that manner, King Louis IX hoped to make France the next leader of Western Christianity. He undoubtedly made his mark, as King Louis IX was the only king of France to be canonised after his death.
Years later, the violence of the French Revolution left Sainte-Chapelle with extensive damage. Sainte-Chapelle was restored in the 19th century, creating what visitors see today. Around two thirds of the lovely stained glass windows are yet authentic, although much of the chapel had to be recreated. In 1862, Sainte-Chapelle became considered a national historic monument of France because of its historical significant and overwhelming splendour.
The exterior of Sainte-Chapelle is simple and beautiful, but does not compare to the lavish decoration of the inside. Guests enter through the lower level, which was once kept for the palace staff. The lower chapel contains statues and décor dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The true treasure is seen upon entering the upper chapel. The stained glass windows are among the best of their kind, standing tall and floating high above as they stretch to the top of the building. They are brightly coloured and display pictures that tell biblical stories. The wall space between windows is even lavishly decorated with paintings of saints and rich hanging textiles. The interior of Sainte-Chapelle is magnificent and well worth a look.
To get to Sainte-Chapelle, take Metro Line 4 to Cite station or take one of the following bus lines: 21, 27, 38, 85, 96. Sainte-Chapelle is open each day from 9:30am to 6pm from March to October. From November to February it is open each day from 9am-5pm. The chapel is closed midday from 1-2pm year-round. Admission to Sainte-Chapelle is €8 for adults. Minors under the age of 18 and citizens of the EU under age 26 enter for free.
Sainte Chapelle is well worth a visit, especially for the grand interior view. The stained glass windows are beyond description, reflecting coloured light in every direction. A visit to Sainte-Chapelle on a sunny day is recommended for guests renting a self-catering apartment in Paris.
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