History Lesson: Sainte-Chapelle
February 23, 2015
Sainte-Chapelle de Paris
Tucked away within the walls of the Palais de Justice, the Sainte-Chapelle is a jewel of Gothic architecture. Located on the Ile de la Cité in the heart of Paris, this spectacular chapel is the only remnant of the royal palace of the French Capetian kings. The stunning 13th-century stained-glass windows will take your breath away.
Louis IX, or Saint Louis, built the chapel in 1248 to house his collection of relics acquired from the impoverished emperor of Constantinople. These included the Crown of Thorns, fragments of the Cross and drops of Christ’s blood, though most of the relics were destroyed or lost during the French Revolution. A pious ruler, Louis IX is the only canonized king of France. He died on a crusade to Carthage in 1270. The chapel stands today as evidence of the king’s devotion to the Catholic faith.
The Sainte Chapelle is an architectural marvel of light and color, with the majority of the walls composed of stained-glass, framed by stone supports. Fifteen windows, each 50 feet high, translate into nearly 6,500 square feet of stained-glass surrounding you! Over 1,130 figures are represented in biblical scenes. The 40-year restoration of the stained-glass was completed in 2014 to coincide with the 800-year anniversary of Saint Louis’s birth. On the occasion of chamber music concerts, the chapel also serves as a divine performance space.
Looking to brush up on your knowledge of the French Revolution? After viewing the Sainte Chapelle, you can head next door to the Conciergerie, Paris’s oldest prison, where countless revolutionaries was held before their execution. You can even peek into the cell where the queen Marie Antoinette awaited her turn at the guillotine.
The queue to visit this popular tourist site is always long, so why not avoid the wait and schedule a visit with a skip the line tour? Book here!