The Sainte-Chapelle had been a long standing item on my Paris to-do list, but for some reason, I’d never got around to it. I had deemed Notre-Dame and Sacré-Coeur more worthy of my attention – the former for its free entry, and the latter for the views.
It wasn’t until my most recent trip to Paris that I finally managed to visit the gorgeous Ile de la Cité, skip Notre-Dame altogether, and focus my visit on the well-hidden Sainte-Chapelle. I could go on and on about the history and architecture of the place, but few words could render the beauty of this chapel as eloquently as pictures would. See for yourself.
Photos of Sainte-Chapelle – The Lower Chapel
The Sainte-Chapelle was built sometime around the late 1200s for a precise reason: the King Louis IX of France wanted to house the Relics of Crucifixion he’d just bought. Relics included the crown of thorns, fragments of the Holy Cross as well as instruments of torture. The King wanted to keep these holy relics under one roof – his roof, that is. The chapel was consequently built in the heart of the Royal Palace on Ile de la Cité, in order to emphasise the close relationship of religion and monarchy.
Oddly enough, the Sainte-Chapelle is made of two different chapels – a darker, smaller one on the ground floor, and the most famous, grand one on the first floor. Both are interesting and awe-inducing in their own way. It’s as if you got to visit two different chapels for the price of one!
The Lower Chapel is actually home to the oldest wall paintings in all of Paris, the Annunciation. Historically, the Lower Chapel was reserved for parish services, as well as a worship place for the inhabitants of the Royal Palace.
Photos of Sainte-Chapelle – The Upper Chapel
The Upper Chapel was always the most prestigious, grandiose one of the two. That’ where the relics were housed at the time, in a large and elaborate massive silver chest, which cost 100,000 livres – the entire chapel, in contrast, cost three times less.
Because of its spectacular architecture, the Sainte-Chapelle is considered one of the finest examples of Rayonnant Gothic, because of its seemingly weightless structure and its very tall stained glass windows. These windows depict, as in most religious buildings, scenes from the biblical history. More specifically, in this case, the iconography strongly focuses on the New Testament (eastern apse), the Old Testament (the nave) and the Book of Genesis (northern wall). The rosary, on the eastern wall, recreates the moment where King Louis IX himself brought the relics inside the chapel.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fully grasp the grandeur of the Upper Chapel during my visit as the northern wall was undergoing renovations. I can very well imagine just how impressive and spiritual this place can be in its full glory, though.
The Sainte-Chapelle – Good to Know
- The Sainte-Chapelle is actually located within the Courts of Justice of Paris. Therefore, there is a mandatory security check.
- Entry is free for EU residents of under 26, and youngsters under 18 years old.
- Make sure to visit between 10 AM and 4 PM – that’s when the light will be at its best in the upper chapel.
- Be patient – queues to get in the Chapel can last up to an hour.
- There are free guided visits available – check schedule when buying tickets (schedule changes seasonally)