Last visit May 2016
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.
Not very common in most churches (I think), in this one the nobles and the people were separated in two different levels.
We enter through the low level (people's level) and thought the beauty is also present, it will not announce the striking light and colours of nobles' level.
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 Sept. 2015- It's been two years since I saw Ste Chapelle and it is still stunning.
The Paris Museum Card will no longer get you special privileges here, you will have to stand in line like everyone else. There is security you need to pass but that goes fairly quickly. Restoration of the left side of the upper chapel has been completed, so the ugly scaffolding that used to take up so much space is now gone, thankfully! I remember feeling disappointed the last time i visited because one got the feeling of just getting half the stunning visual effect.
This is my nomination for the world's most beautiful concert venue, the 13th century Sainte Chapelle on the Ile de la Cité in the center of Paris.
On many evenings there are two one-hour concerts here, the first at 19:00 (7.00 pm) and the second at 20:30 (8.30 pm). I chose the first concert in hopes that there would still be ample sunlight shining through the amazing 13th century stained glass windows (which there was).
Tickets to these concerts cost 25 Euros each, plus 2.50 commission if you buy it ahead of time at the fnac store as I did. This is not cheap (you can see an entire opera in Paris for less than that), but well worth it to be able to sit for an hour in this fantastically beautiful Gothic building listening to brilliant music played by soloists from the leading French orchestras.
Second photo: The chamber music concert I attended at the Sainte Chapelle was by the Orchestre Les Archets de Paris, a chamber music ensemble that was founded in 1992, composed mainly of solo musicians from the National Orchestra of the Paris Opera or the National Orchestra of France. (Click on the link below to hear samples of their fine music.) Their program started with two short pieces by Vitali (1644?-1692) and J. Pachelbel (1653-1706), followed by the complete Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Third photo: Christophe Guiot, the conductor and violin soloist, came to the back of the chapel after the concert to sign CD booklets.
Fourth photo: Another advantage of attending an evening concert is that you can have a good look at the inside of the Sainte Chapelle without waiting in the long queue that tends to form during the day.
Unfortunately your Museum Pass will not speed up your entry to the Sainte Chapelle because there is only one line -- and a sign in French politely asking Museum Pass holders to se patienter in the same queue along with everybody else.
Location, aerial view and photo on monumentum.fr.
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.
You can visit the interior of the church for €8.50 (current price as of 2015). Check out their website for more information.
I don't know why I didn't this place until my 3rd trip to Paris...it's an absolutely wonderful Gothic masterpiece!
It was built for King Louis IX.
There are 2 magnificent chapels, standing one above the other and featuring so much gold and adornment that I could hardly believe my eyes. Ste Chapelle was completed in 1248.
The larger upper church is 67 feet high and features 15 narrow stained glass windows which are almost 50 feet high, with barely any space in between them. I’d never seen so much stained glass in my life and was just awestruck.
On each side pillar in the upper chapel is a 14th century statue of one of the Twelve Apostles.
On our last night in Paris in 2000, we were lucky to get tickets to a performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons here, and it was absolutely fantastic!
The best memory of Paris out of all the wonderful things we saw there.
2014: be aware about renovations that are due to last till about 2016. While St Chapelle is still open, the extent of the renovations and the large areas covered over took me by surprise and I really didn't enjoy myself here (with drilling and noise as background) as much as last time.
The Sainte-Chapelle is a royal medieval Gothic chapel, located near the Palais de la Cité, on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France.
Begun some time after 1239 and consecrated on 26 April 1248, the Sainte-Chapelle is considered among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. Its erection was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion Relics, including Christ's Crown of Thorns - one of the most important relics in medieval Christendom.
Along with the Conciergerie, the Sainte-Chapelle is one of the earliest surviving buildings of the Capetian royal palace on the Île de la Cité. Although damaged during the French revolution, and restored in the 19th century, it retains one of the most extensive in-situ collections of 13th-century stained glass anywhere in the world.
Cost of admission is 8.50 Euro and since half of the glasses are under renovation we spent about 30 minutes here.
There's no way to describe this chapel; there's no way, either, to capture it entirely in pictures or video. It has to be lived in location.
This small chapel, near Notre-Dame, is a splendour of colours. It's incorrect to say that the chapel has wonderful stained glasses - it is just the opposite: the fabulous stained glasses compose a magnificent chapel. But there's more.
Don't get impressed by the long lines at the entrance - you must accept them, because this is something that no one should miss.
I had seen the windows on tv before and I knew they were pretty. So it was a great pleasure to seem them for myself in reality. We were not planning to see them but when we came by there was no queue. I was like, stop! So we went inside. There was a smallish queue before the ticket booth but nothing on the pavement outside.
The only downside to this whole experience that three of the 15 windows are undergoing restauration (oct 2013). Otherwise it was so good. Every detail is so beautifully done. This one of the occasions one needs binoculars. It was hard to see the top of the windows from the floor. We stayed quite a while to have a good look and soak up the atmosphere.
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!
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.