You may have heard of Sainte-Chapelle, its a masterpiece of gothic architecture, and a shining jewel that stands out amongst countless examples. Discover this marvel of medieval architecture, and you’ll see why.
Louis the 9th, more frequently known today as Saint Louis, initiated the construction of the church, intending it as a home for the relics of the Passion of Christ that he had brought back from the Crusades: a fragment of the One True Cross and the Crown of Thorns. The purchase of these relics cost him three times as much as the construction of Sainte-Chapelle itself! This is perhaps a key to understanding this monarch’s piety… or perhaps his gullibility.
Either way, we’re lucky that he decided undergo this project; today, we’re blessed with the Sainte-Chapelle, to admire in its entire splendor! Its construction took barely two years, from 1246 to 1248, which makes it even more admirable.
Your visit of Sainte-Chapelle will begin with its painted vault, on the ground floor. This chapel was devoted to relatives of the king and members of the court. Its low ceiling and massive pillars surround the gift shop in the middle. You may be asking yourself where the masterpiece is!
But hold on to your horses! All you have to do is climb to the chapel on the upper level: this royal chapel was reserved for the king and his immediate family, and it is clearly the masterpiece you’ve heard about. You’ll be blown away by color from the moment you enter: the room is entirely devoted to light!
Fifteen magnificent stained-glass windows, each 16 meters high, represent more than a thousand Biblical scenes. The rose window was renovated in the 15th century in the Flamboyant Gothic style. It represents the Apocalypse according to Saint John; it is the only window of its kind in the world. Saint Louis wanted this cage of light worthy of containing the precious relics, and there’s very little argument to the contrary.
To fully appreciate your visit of Sainte-Chapelle, make sure that the sun is on your side: natural sunlight brings out the best in the stained-glass windows. Try to go in the morning as soon as it opens, to avoid crowds and lines, and bring a pair of binoculars to examine the details of the windows.
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