Last visit June 2013
If you are at Notre Dame, St. Chapelle is very close and definitely worth a visit. Work on the two storied chapel started in 1246, built to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. The chapel at that time was part of the royal palace, the original function of the Conciergerie before it became a prison. You have to go through a security line, presumably because the chapel is next to the Palais de Justice, you then enter the lower chapel where the palace staff worshipped. It's beautiful and ornate but nothing compared to the sight you have after heading upstairs to the upper chapel where King Louis IX and his courtiers worshipped, 15 brilliant blue stained glass windows make the walls almost entirely of glass. Try to go on a day when the sun is shining through those glorious windows.
There was a separate line for the Museum Pass after security, on the day we visited the security line was about 15 minutes and the ticket queue looked to be about 15 minutes. If you have time, you can also go visit the Conciergerie next door which is also on the Museum Pass.
Being a great fan of Gothic architecture, I don't quite know why it's taken me thirty years to visit St Chapelle - all I know is that it was worth the wait!
As the name implies, St Chapelle is a chapel which is part of the Conciergerie complex and the only surviving part of the original palace, having been consecrated in 1248. It has been lovingly restored, and every detail - from the windows to the gilded woodwork and the painstaking frescoes (complete with a constellation of tiny fleur-de-lys on the ceiling). It is tiny by comparison with other Paris churches, and having been designed in the 'Rayonnant' Gothic style, it has a particularly high ceiling relative to its length and breadth and - unlike other masterpieces of Gothic architecture such as Notre Dame and St Eustache - it has no flying buttresses. This architectural model provides maximum room for windows - and what windows they are!
St Chapelle's stained glass is absolutely breathtaking, and all the more overwhelming because the proportion of window to building is much higher than in a conventional church. I attended an early evening concert that coincided with sunset (which I'd love to claim was deliberate due to careful planning on my part, but in reality, only a happenstance that I realised once I'd made the booking) and to watch the glow of the jewel-toned windows in the fading light was quite extraordinary.
St Chapelle often hosts concerts - usually 'classics lite' such as Vivaldi - but hugely enjoyable nonetheless. The performance I saw was by a string quartet didn't so much take the Four Seasons at a canter, but at a full blooded gallop, and the combination of gorgeous, familiar music with wonderful acoustics in a beautiful setting was quite intoxicating. However, be warned that such concerts are usually fairly brief, and there may actually be two concerts in a single evening (the one I attended started at 19:00 and the next performance was scheduled for 20:30). These concerts are also not cheap - I think that I paid €30 online - but when you factor in the admission fee that you'd have paid to visit St Chapelle anyway (€11 combined with the Conciergerie at the time of writing in October 2011) then it begins to dip back into the realms of the affordable.
St Chapelle has an intimate feel that's quite different to the imposing Gothic splendour of Notre Dame or St Denis, so if you've fallen in love with those buildings - and with the zeal of the newly converted - I implore you not to even consider this missing this!
The Sainte Chapelle was built by Louis IX (St Louis) to house Christ's Crown of Thorns, one of the most valuable relics in all of Christendom. At the time what is today the Courts building was then the royal palace and St Chapelle was only intended as a royal chapel.
There are two chapels here, a lower and an upper one. The lower chapel served as a chapel for those living in the palace. The upper chapel was only for the royal family.
If there is one church you see in Paris, this would be a good choice. Though damaged during the Revolution, some of the stained glass is the original from the 13th century. It is a church that is designed to overwhelm you. The lower chapel is a fairly ordinary space, but climb the stairs to the upper chapel and it will take your breath away. You look up and it's all suddenly bathed in light. I went somewhat late in the afternoon and the light was just stunning.
Definitely a must see in Paris!
Update 2013: The last time we walked by, there was still scaffolding up, but it was open so I'd go unless you're sure you'll be back.
Update 2011: Central stained glass windows are currently undergoing restoration. Stained glass windows in the North and South can be viewed, as can the Western rose window.
Oddly, we had been to Paris several times before we visited Ste. Chapelle. That was a mistake. Now we visit every time and glory in the stained glass, although I must admit I am utterly in love with the ground floor and exquisite painting on walls, pillars and ceiling . . . and this is where the peasants attended church!
Ste. Chapelle is no longer a working church but is often used for concerts. There are many marvelous stories including one of a monk who spent a year at Ste. Chapelle following the Bible stories in the stained glass. You will see many people with detailed guidebooks and binoculars sitting along the sides doing the same thing. Presumably, they don't have a year to spend doing this.
If you want to see detail, I highly recommend the binoculars. If you just want to soak up the ambience, go on a sunny day and sit and marvel at the riot of colors.
Imagine yourself tucked away in a golden jewel box of the world's most brilliant rubies, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds and topaz, and covered with a lid of indigo studded with stars. That's what it's like to stand in the middle of Sainte-Chapelle. And that is exactly what the architect intended.
Commissioned by Louis IX (later canonized Saint Louis) in the mid-thirteenth century, its purpose was to serve as a reliquary for costly fragments of the Passion that the king had acquired in Constantinople. It was connected to a royal palace, where the Palais de Justice now stands, and the Conciergerie, which dates back to the same century. Sadly the chapel suffered the same type of damage that other churches and historic structures sustained during the French Revolution: shrines melted; relics looted; rood screen, carved pulpit and choir stalls destroyed. But most of the windows miraculously survived and the others have been carefully restored. There are fifteen of them soaring forty-nine feet high and supported so delicately that they form a nearly continuous expanse of glorious color.
You'll enter the building through an interesting lower-level chapel where the palace household worshipped, and climb a steep flight of stairs to the royal sanctuary. The impact of the windows is most stunning on a sunny day and will be brightest on the right side where exterior buildings sit far enough away to let in more light than on the left. The entire apse end of the chapel was covered up for some restoration work so we didn't get the full effect but I still wouldn't have missed this for the world!
Admission is included on the Paris Museum Pass, or see the attached website for hours and ticket prices, which also cover a visit to the Conciergerie.
Be aware: this is one attraction without a separate line for pass holders prior to a security check, and queues can be long. Once through, pass holders may skip the ticket line and proceed directly to the chapel. The chapel is also not heated during the winter, and restoration work of various sorts may be occurring during your visit.
I haven't written "Things to Do" tips about most of the usual sights of Paris for obvious reasons, but this one I felt inclined to give a tip for, because it is not as widely known as say the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame and I first saw it on my third trip to Paris only because I had read about it on VT. The feature of course is the amazing stained glass windows which seem endless in St Chapelle. The colour will take your breath away. The lines are long as security is tight but it is worth the wait believe me.
Saint-Chapelle is one of the most visited sites in Paris with good reason. The downside is, because of its size and location (inside the Palais du Justice) both the security line and the line to get in can be long and the experience less than hushed. And GO! Outside of Chartres you will not see more beautiful stained glass.
Built in the reign of Louis IX in the flamboyant Gothic style, the chapel is all that remains. of the larger palace that surrounded it.
This was a recommendation from D’s ex MiL. Gisela lived in Paris for a while.
It is right beside the Concièrgerie, and you can buy a joint (jumelle) ticket. I don’t remember if that saves money, but it saves queueing twice!
Ironically, I’d been to the Concièrgerie years ago with my son, but we skipped this. Maybe I decided it would be boring for a 12 year old.
I’m very thankful to Gisela. It is wonderful.
It was built in 1248 by Louis IX. The stained glass windows are amazing. My camera skills don’t do them justice. Go see for yourself.
The twin ticket was €12.50 per adult
Sainte-chapelle is a Gothic marvel. The church was erected in only 33 months on the behest of King Louis IX within his private palace to house the 'Crown of Thorns'.
The interior of the church is quite small but with breathtaking cathedral ceilings, stained glass windows in every nook with its gold lame walls that gives the church an amazing appearance.
There is a fee to view the interior of the church. It will only take about an hour to view the entire interior.
The Lower Chapel of Sainte Chapelle was the place used by the commoners and servants at the royal palace of the medieval Capetian Kings of France. It acted as a sort of parish church for the court and palace.
When visiting Sainte Chapelle this is the first part of the site that you enter after the ticket office and security check. It's also the place where the gift shop is tragically located. Tragic because I think they could (and should) have kept the gift shop out of this place and maybe had it in the courtyard outside. I don't say this because of any religious belief (I'm a screaming atheist) but because I think it ruins this fabulous space.
You might expect the Lower Chapel used by the commoners to be plain. Well in comparision to the Upper Chapel it is, but it's still lavish and wonderful in it's own right and you should take some time to explore this place before making your way up the narrow stone spiral staircase to the Upper Chapel.
I found the arches and vaulted ceiling to be the best thing about this very special place.
See my main Sainte Chapelle page for more details about opening times and history etc.
5 Reviews and 726 Opinions The Four Seasons George V is truly one of the world's great hotels. I really, really love to stay...
Saint James Paris Paris
1 Review and 160 Opinions Saint James is a beautifull place, oase of silence in the middle of Paris. Quietly good service,...
Hotel Relais Bosquet Paris
8 Reviews and 902 Opinions I know Hotel Relais Bosquet for a long time and it always been a very satisfying hotel. The care of...