The Holy Chapel

Sainte-Chapelle, which means Holy Chapel, is a gorgeous gothic-style church located in the heart of Paris on Ile de la Cite. King Louis IX commissioned the church to be built in 1239, and it was completed in 1248 and is the last remaining building of the Capetian Royal Palace. The original intention of its construction was to be a treasury for a collection of holy relics owned by King Louis IX. Included in this collection was the crown of thorns, a piece of the “true cross”, and 30 other odd pieces.

The chapel played an important role during the reign on King Louis, as it was not only used as a place of worship, but also played an important political role by displaying the King’s artistic and architectural abilities, thus contributing to his position as the highest powered monarch in western Christian kingdoms. A large reason that the Sainte-Chapelle was considered such a triumph, and a point King Louis was sure to point out, was its major resemblance to Chalemagne’s temple. Another unique aspect the king enjoyed was the ability to quickly and secretly travel from his palace into the Sainte-Chapelle.

Throughout the years, and especially during the French Revolution, there was significant damage done to the chapel. Some of the relics were also lost or moved elsewhere, such as to the Notre Dame de Paris. Between 1803 and 1855 restorations began, however, and were considered exemplary in their careful execution under the lead of Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

The Sainte-Chappelle is considered a true masterpiece of its time and is one of the greatest examples of “Rayonnant”, or gothic architectural style, the world has ever witnessed. The stained glass featured in the chapel is regarded as some of the most beautiful in existence. Only about two-thirds of the stained glass you see today is original, but the replacements pieces are expertly crafted.

So remarkable is the chapel, that in 1323 a local scholar Jean de Jandun, paid tribute to the building he considered one of the most beautiful ever built in his writing ”Tractus de laudibus Parisius”. His excerpt about the Sainte-Chapelle is as follows: “That most beautiful of chapels, the chapel of the king, most decently situated within the walls of the king’s house, enjoys a complete and indissoluble structure of the most solid stone. The most excellent colors of the pictures, the precious gilding of the images, the beautiful transparence of the ruddy windows on all sides, the most beautiful cloths of the altars, the wondrous merits of the sanctuary, the figures of the reliquaries externally adorned with dazzling gems, bestow such a hyperbolic beauty on that house of prayer, that, in going into it below, one understandably believes oneself, as if rapt to heaven, to enter one of the best chambers of Paradise.”

Today, you can visit the Sainte-Chapelle, located near the metro station Cite in the heart of Paris. Admission for individuals is about €5.50, and group tours are about €4.50 per person.