Sainte-Chapelle is modeled after Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel at Aachen Germany and that church is modeled after The Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem. This crystal marvel of light is breath-taking! There are 1113 scenes (panels) depicted in the 15 floor to ceiling panels of stained glass. Nearly two-thirds of these panels are original, dating from 1248.
The Sainte-Chapelle was built by Louis IX to house the most sacred of all Christian relics, the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross. The chapel and the tour are all that remain of the original palace of Louis IX.
Today Sainte-Chapelle is swallowed up by the Palais de Justice which surrounds it -whereas it was the center-piece of the Palais de St. Louis when it was built.
Built in 6 short years, 1242 – 1248, this chapel is Gothic Rayonnant (Radiant) style and has two levels of chapels. The lower level was the chapel for servants and lesser nobility. The bookstore is located here now. The lower chapel is only 21 feet high.
The lower chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary so most of the carvings around the entry doors are marial iconography. The stained glass windows that were in this chapel were taken down after the Paris flood in 1690 and were replaced by colorless glass. Those window were replaced in the 19th century.
Climb the narrow spiral staircase to the upper level which is the King’s Chapel. This is where the splendid light –filled stained glass is so amazing.
The exterior of the entire chapel is 56 feet wide by 118 feet long and is 139 feet high (excluding the steeple) whereas the interior of the upper chapel is 108 feet long and 34 feet wide. At its highest point the Chapel is 67 feet high. At one time there were statues of the twelve apostles between the window panels. However, today only one original remains with the other 11 being copies. The 11 originals, which were decapitated during the Revolution, are on display in the Musée de Moyen Age.
As you enter the church, the stained glass windows of the upper chapel tell the story of the Bible in a counter-clockwise beginning with the window on your immediate left. Read the window from bottom to top. The story ends with the tale of the legend of the relics in the last panel on your immediate right. It is the only panel of stained glass that is not related to the Bible. Because the window are 50 feet high in places (a mere 44 feet in the apse), it is impossible to see the story told by the panels at the very top. I wish we had brought binoculars.
The shrine in the apse which contained the holy relics and the Crown of Thorns was displayed in this gallery but was melted down during the Revolution. This shrine/reliquary was 9 feet long and gilded in silver and copper.
4 Bd du Palais
Metro Line 4, Cité stop