We recommend you to visit the Sainte-Chapelle, a masterpiece of Flamboyant Gothic architecture built by Saint Louis in the heart of the Palais de la Cité on the Ile de la Cité in Paris.
A little history…
Located on the Seine in the heart of Paris, the Ile de la Cité is in fact the old birthplace of the city of Paris, once known as Lutetia…
During his reign from 1226 to 1270, Louis IX, dit St. Louis, let expand the Capetian palace to the north shore of the island. And in the palace, the Sainte-Chapelle was built, as a monumental reliquary to welcome the most precious relics of the kingdom: the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the True Cross, purchased by St. Louis to the Byzantine emperor in 1239 and 1241. Through these acquisitions, St. Louis affirmed the temporal and spiritual supremacy of the Kings of France.
Visiting the Sainte-Chapelle…
Depending on the model Palatine, the building houses two chapels superimposed a low chapel for the public worship, and an upper chapel, reserved for the royal family ; its access was done through a private gallery.
By entering the chapel low, you’ll be amazed by the profusion of side columns which support arches overhead. Low ceiling, it is lined with massive columns supporting the entire weight of the building. Its structure provides a great impression of lightness and space.
This feeling is even stronger in the upper chapel, where restoration in the XIXth century has adorned the columns and arches of lilies on a blue background and Castilian towers on a red background, a tribute to the mother of St. Louis, Blanche de Castille.
You will reach the upper chapel by a narrow spiral staircase, and you’ll discover a treasure of sacred art, a unique testimony of the apogee of the Gothic architecture : some 600 m² stained glasses on 15 windows of 15 meters high and a rose window of 9 meters diameter! All are magnified by the slightest ray of sunshine.
Each bay represents religious scenes, illustrating a different theme from the Old or New Testament, with a wealth of detail and dazzling colors. From the Genesis and Exodus to the history of the sacred relics, until their purchase by St. Louis represented on its white horse… the narrative richness of the stained glasses is explained in a detailed notice available near the exit. It should be noted that two-thirds of the windows are original and date from the XIIIth century.
The bays are separated by thin columns whose bases host statues of Apostles.
At the back of the nave, a carved gallery supports the canopy under which the Crown of Thorns was once exposed. Turning around, you will discover the beautiful rose of the west front of the chapel.
Outside, an army of gargoyles watch over the massive columns of the edifice, whose spire rises to 75 meters (it was replaced in 1853, the original collapsed in 1793). A statue of the archangel Michael is at the height of the roof.
Restoration work is regularly done in this sumptuous chapel. Since November 2010, the National Monuments Centre continues the vast campaign of restoration of the windows, initiated in the 1970s. The Sainte-Chapelle is part of a UNESCO World Heritage.
Useful informations :
8 boulevard du Palais – Paris 1er
Metro : line 4, station Cité
Tel. 01 53 40 60 80
Opening hours :
- Times may vary
- Open every day, 1 March to 31 October : 9:30 to 18:00
- Cashdesks close 30 minutes earlier
- Open in the evening on Wednesdays, 15 May to 15 September, last admission at 21:00
- between 13:00 and 14:00 during the week
- 1 January, 1 May 1 and 25 December
Due to its location inside the Palais de Justice, access to the Sainte-Chapelle is controlled by the gendarmerie ; it is strictly forbidden for visitors to be in possession of any metal objects such as knives, scissors and any other pointed or sharp metal instrument.
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