Aug 23, 2009

Exterior of La Sainte Chapelle

In Paris, there are many churches to visit. Each church has different beautiful chapel. Eglise La Sainte Chapelle, located at 4, boulevard du Palais in the Île de la Cité, 1 st arrondissement, is the high points of French High Gothic architecture. The interior gives a strong sense of fragile beauty, reducing the structural supports to a bare minimum to make way for huge expanse of exquisite stained glass. I had a feeling of being enveloped in light and color.

Upper chapel

Lower chapel served as parish church for all the inhabitants of the palace. This chapel, which is rather plain, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. A souvenir stand often occupies most of the chapel today.

Lower chapel

The most beautiful aspects of the chapel, and considered the best of their type in the world, are its 6,458 square feet of stained glass windows of the upper chapel, surrounded by delicate painted stonework. The windows are in deep reds and blues and illustrate 1,130 figures from the Bible. The rose windows added to the upper chapel in the 15th century.

Stained glass in upper chapel

Rose window

Founded by King Louis IX of France, who constructed it as a chapel for the royal palace and to house precious relics. The palace itself has otherwise utterly disappeared, leaving the Sainte-Chapelle all but surrounded by the Palais de Justice. . In 1239, he purchased the crown of thorns from the impoverished Latin emperor at Constantinople, Baldwin II, for 135,000 livres (the entire chapel, by contrast, cost 40,000 livres to build). A piece of the True Cross was added, along with other relics, making Sainte-Chapelle a valuable reliquary. In addition to properly sheltering his holy relics, Sainte-Chapelle was a result of Louis' political ambition to be the central monarch of western Christendom.

At the time Louis's royal chapel was constructed, the imperial throne at Constantinople was occupied by a mere Count of Flanders and the Holy Roman Empire was in uneasy disarray. Sainte-Chapelle was planned in 1241, started in 1246 and quickly completed: it was consecrated on April 26, 1248. Just as the Emperor could pass privately from his palace into Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, so now Louis could walk directly from his palace into the Sainte-Chapelle. King Louis IX died of the plague on a crusade, was later canonized by the Pope, and is now known as Saint Louis. Most of Louis' precious relics were lost or destroyed in the French Revolution; the few that remain are in the treasury of Notre-Dame. In the 19th century, Viollet-le-Duc restored the Sainte-Chapelle. The current spire is his sensitive deign. The Sainte-Chapelle has been a national historic monument since 1862.

What a beautiful chapel!

Station on Paris metro: Cité