Sainte Chapelle

Paris, France

St. Chapelle

St. Chapelle
(edited: perspective)
Photograph by Malou Uprichard 1

The royal chapel is a prime example of the phase of Gothic architectural style called "Rayonnant", marked by its sense of weightlessness and strong vertical emphasis. It stands squarely upon a lower chapel, which served as parish church for all the inhabitants of the palace, which was the seat of government.

St. Chapelle

Interior of St. Chapelle
Artist: Unknown 2

St. Chapelle

Stained Glass Window at St. Chapelle
Jesus before Pilate
Photograph by Marie-Lan Nguyen 3

Unlike many devout aristocrats, who regularly swiped sacred relics, the saintly Louis bought his for a hefty sum. In 1239, he purchased the crown of thorns from the impoverished Latin emperor at Constantinople, Baldwin II, for 135,000 livres (the entire chapel, by contrast, cost 40,000 livres to build). A piece of the True Cross was added, along with other relics, making Sainte-Chapelle a valuable reliquary.

St. Chapelle

Interior of St. Chapelle,
Photograph by Eugenevs 4

The Relics of Sainte-Chapelle are relics of Jesus Christ acquired by the French monarchy in the Middle Ages and now conserved by the Archdiocese of Paris. They were originally housed at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and are now in the cathedral treasury of Notre Dame de Paris.

St. Chapelle

Child at St. Chapelle
Photograph by Route8 5

The Revolution meant a ban on conserving relics and all other sacred symbols linked to the kings, though this allowed for pieces judged to be of high artistic quality to be saved. These relics were handed over to the archbishop of Paris in 1804 and are still held in the cathedral treasury of Notre Dame, cared for by the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and the cathedral chapter.

Coffer that contained a Sepulchre stone

Sliding cover from a coffer
that contained a "Sepulchre stone"
Photograph by Marie-Lan Nguyen 6

The first Friday of every month at 3 PM, guarded by the Knights, the Holy Relics are exposed for veneration and adoration by the faithful before the cathedral's high altar. Every Good Friday, this adoration lasts all day, punctuated by the liturgical offices. An exhibition entitled Le trésor de la Sainte-Chapelle was put on at the Louvre in 2001. 2, 4

St. Chapelle

Column detail at St. Chapelle
Photograph by Sizun Eye 7

The Sainte-Chapelle is the finest royal chapel to be built in France and features a truly exceptional collection of stained-glass windows. It was built in the mid 13th century by Louis IX, at the heart of the royal residence, the Palais de la Cité ... Adorned with a unique collection of fifteen glass panels and a large rose window forming a veritable wall of light, the Sainte-Chapelle is a gem of French Gothic architecture. 3

Architectural Summary

Architects:

Date:

Style:

Assumed to be Pierre de Montreuil

1239 to 1248

Rayonnant (Gothic)

The Holy Chapel is a royal medieval Gothic chapel, located in the heart of Paris. Begun some time after 1239 and consecrated on 26 April 1248, it is considered among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture.

St. Chapelle

St. Chapelle
(edited: perspective adjustment)
Photograph by Odon 8

Sainte-Chapelle is one of the 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. 4

It 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. Louis purchased his Passion relics from Baldwin II, the Latin emperor at Constantinople. The relics arrived in Paris in August 1239, carried from Venice by two Dominican friars

St. Chapelle

Arch detail at St. Chapelle
Photograph by Scott Andress 9

King Louis IX was well known for protecting the French clergy from secular leaders and for strictly enforcing laws against blasphemy. In 1242 Louis was forced to go to war with England and defeated Henry III at Tailebourg. After the war, he made restitution to the innocent people whose property had been destroyed. Louis led two crusades, the Sixth and the Seventh Crusades. He was captured and imprisoned during the Sixth (1244-1249). At the onset of the Seventh Crusade in 1270, Louis died of dysentry. Boniface VIII canonized him in 1297. 1

St. Chapelle

Arches at St. Chapelle
(edited: perspective adjustment)
Photograph by Mei Lan Yee 10

Saint Louis (King Louis IX) built Sainte-Chapelle in the 13th century to house the Holy Crown, a fragment of the True Cross and other relics he had acquired from Baldwin II of Constantinople. This made the chapel itself an immense reliquary, housing the crown, the True Cross fragment, relics of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Lance, the Holy Sponge and the Mandylion, a supposed image of Christ

St. Chapelle

Arches at St. Chapelle
Photograph by Nickdryz 11

In the early modern era the kings of France drained their treasury, sold rubies and melted down gold to supply their vast military spending needs, making all the chapel's ecclesiastical treasures into a monetary reserve that could be used if needed, as they had also been in the medieval era. This meant that under Henry IV of France (reigned 1589 - 1610) what was left of the treasure was reduced to the state it would hold until the French Revolution.

St. Chapelle

St. Chapelle - Golden Arches
Photograph by Steven Christenson 12

St. Chapelle

Arches at St. Chapelle
Photograph by Alf 13

St. Chapelle

Arches at St. Chapelle,
Photograph by Scott Andress 14

St. Chapelle

St. Chapelle
(edited: perspective adjustment)
Photograph by Randi Hausken 15

St. Chapelle

Stained Glass Window at St. Chapelle
(edited: perspective adjustment)
Photograph by Alf 16

St. Chapelle

Interior of St. Chapelle
Photograph by Christopher Simrell 17

References

Images

See Tabs: (Resources / Website / Image Resources) for common image sources.