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.
The Sainte Chapelle has been (rightly in my opinion) proclaimed as a masterpiece and wonder of medieval architecture. The ethereal and almost magical feel of the place, created by the spectacular use of so much stained glass (and of such quality work) is something you will remember about your visit to Paris.
The chapel was built by King Louis IX (St Louis) to house the holy relics he had acquired from the Latin emperor in Constantinople which included the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the cross along with some 30 other items claimed to be related to the Passion of Christ. The King had actually purchased them from the Venetians in practice as they had been pawned to them. The relics were carried by Dominican friars from Venice to Paris and arrived there in August 1239. The last stage of the journey actually saw the King carrying them himself dressed as a penitent and bare foot (this is actually shown in one of the stained glass windows of the chapel).
The Sainte Chapelle is actually comprised of two chapels, an Upper Chapel which was used by the King and the royal family (and presumably other important and favoured people), and a Lower Chapel which was used as a parish church for the palace of the Capetian Kings of France on the Ile-de-la-Cité. This lower chapel would therefore have been used by servants and commoners.
Both chapels are spectacularly beautiful and very colourful whilst having very different characters and both can be visited, but it's not cheap! Entry is €8.50 per person, or you can get a combined ticket with the Conciergerie just a few steps down the street for €12.50. Far better value however is to get a Paris museum pass which starts at €39 for 2 days and includes most of the very expensive sights of Paris, including the Sainte Chapelle and Conciergerie (but not the Eiffel Tower).
The site is open every day except New Years Day, 1st May and Christmas Day. From March to October 9.30am to 6pm and from November to February from 9am to 5pm. If you are visiting in winter I would imagine you need to make sure you go during bright daylight to get the best from the stained glass. I can't see that you would get the same effect on a late afternoon in December when it's already dark.
When you arrive you will have to submit to the all to familiar ritual of walking through the airport style metal detectors and having someone take a quick peek in your bag, which has become a sad sign of our times.
The Upper Chapel of Sainte Chapelle was the place where the King and other royals would have worshiped in the medieval palace here on the Ile-de-la-Cité. It is a true wonder of medieval architecture and it is one of those things I would suggest people add to their list of things to see before they die.
The 15 immense stained glass windows (plus a 16th Rose window) are separated by just thin stone columns and the result is a blaze of light and colour all around you as soon as you emerge from the dark and narrow spiral stone staircase from the Lower Chapel.
Predictably the windows show stories from both the old and new testaments but also the 15th window shows the story of the relics that were housed here (such as the crown of Thorns) in medieval times, but frankly this seemed irrelevant in the face of the beauty of the sum of the elements of the construction. If you look carefully you can see images such as the Last Supper, Adam and Eve in Eden and King Louis IX bringing the Relics of the Passion into Paris in 1239.
For details of opening times and some brief history see my main Sainte Chapelle page.
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