Sainte Chapelle Paris is a Gothic architecture style chapel in central Paris.
The church is best known as the place, where most important holy relics in Christian faith, including the Crown of Thorns, were stored at one time.
Sainte Chapelle was purpose-built, in fact, to store these greatest treasures in Christendom:
- the Crown of Thorns,
- image of Edessa, and
- about 30 other holy relics from the life of Jesus.
Sainte-Chapelle is also a palace chapel, located at a courtyard to a former royal palace, modern-day Palais de Justice, now housing Paris law courts.
PHOTO: Sainte Chapelle Paris is adjacent to the Palais de Justice. Visitor entrance to the chapel, however, is not through the pictured golden gate, but through an entrance left of the picture (in front of which you’ll typically find a long queue of tourists).
The holy relics which were stored at the chapel had been a French possession from 1239, since King Louis IX’s reign. These treasures were initially stored at the fortress of Château de Vincennes…
…and as a section of the holy relics were kept there despite building of the Sainte-Chapelle in central Paris, the fortress got its own Sainte-Chapelle to store these treasures.
King Louis IX acquired the holy treasures in 1239, by purchasing them from the Latin ruler of Constantinople, Baudoin II.
Baudoin II had previously put the treasures as a debt collateral to the Venetian Dominican monks, from whom the relics were sent to Paris.
Byzantines, in turn, had got the hold of these holy relics from the Crusades to the holy land.
The French king spent a small fortune to purchase the relics, in fact, around 135,000 livres…
….and in comparison, it cost just 40,000 livres to build the entire Sainte-Chapelle to house the treasures. Louis IX also acquired (in 1241) a section of the True Cross.
When Sainte Chapelle Paris was completed in 1248 (work on the church had began in 1242), it quickly became one of the most important churches in Europe.
Relocation of such holy treasures to Paris was part of King Louis IX’spolitical and cultural ambitions, with the intention to move European power-center towards France…
…at a time, when Constantinople was ruled by “only” a former Count of Flanders, and as Holy Roman Empire was under disarray.
Later, due to his leadership in saving and protecting these holy relics, the Catholic church declared Louis IX a saint.
With French Revolution (1789-99), a large part of these treasures were either stolen or destroyed, with only a section being saved.
The remaining relics are now on display at the Notre Dame cathedral, at the section for “Sainte-Chapelle Holy Relics“.
In terms of architecture, Sainte-Chapelle is one of the most beautiful churches in the world, renowned for its stained glass artworks.
These stained glass artworks portray historical religious events, with rulers of France always being included in the portrayals…with either King David or King Salomon always located close to the French ruler.
Also, the artwork tell the stories behind the holy relics that were kept here.
When visiting the church, also notice the 15th century rose windows on the upper chapel. Of these, the biggest (9-meters (29 ft) in diameter) rose window contains a famous stained glass artwork, titled “Judgment Day“.
On the upper level, near the roof, there is also a wonderful statue of Archangel Michael.
The church, in fact, has been divided into two main sections:
- the lower chapel, dedicated to Virgin Mary, was for the ordinary people, while
- the upper chapel was used by the royal court.
There are no mentions in history books about who designed the church, but the name most often attached to the design is Pierre de Montreuil…
…who was also responsible for rebuilding Saint-Denis monastery church’s apse, and who finalized the main facade at Notre-Dame de Paris.
Together with Conciergerie, Sainte-Chapelle is all that remains of historical Palais de la Cité…a royal palace, whose history went back to the 8th century and Merovingian rule.
Sainte Chapelle Paris
Address: 4, Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris, France
Official website: Sainte-Chapelle.Monuments-Nationaux.fr
If you’ll join the over 800,000 annual visitors to the Sainte Chapelle Paris, you can get to the church using Paris metro, with closest station being at “Cité“.