Sainte Chapelle

The Sainte Chapelle lies at the very heart of Paris, on the Ile de la Cite along the River Seine, and resides within the complex of the Palais de Justice. King Louis IX commissioned its construction in 1241 to house the holy relics of Christ that he purchased from Baldwin II, the emperor of Constantinople. Today, travelers visit this most delicate of Paris chapels for many reasons, including the celebrated Sainte Chapelle stained glass windows.

Louis IX bought several holy remnants of the Passion of Christ from Baldwin II, the reigning emperor of Constantinople, for the huge sum of 135,000 livres, which is equivalent to about 540,000 dollars today, without accounting for inflation. He desired not only to possess the relics of Jesus Christ, but also to become the dominant sovereign in the Christian world, and his aspirations prompted him to commission the construction of La Sainte Chapelle Paris. The cost of the entire structure ran a bill of less than half the price of the relics, 40,000 livres. Upon its completion, the king could now pass from his palace to one of the most beautiful Paris chapels in total privacy. During a crusade, King Louis IX died of plague; he was canonized, and is, today, known as Saint Louis.

The architecture emerging at the time was known as Rayonnant, a type of Gothic design, and today, Sainte Chapelle is one of the fine examples left standing, though much of it is undergoing restoration work. In the lower chapel of the structure, the Annunciation, the oldest painting in Paris, resides with calm essence. Sitting in a lofty position above the Palace of Justice, the structural support is scarcely evident against the backdrop of the immense proportions of the stained glass encompassing the entire chapel, summing a total of 6,458 square feet of colorful scenes from the Old Testament and the Passion of Christ enshrined in glass.

After the outbreak of the French Revolution, La Sainte Chapelle Paris was used as an administrative building, and much of the structure was protected from being ransacked and destroyed, however unintentionally. Unfortunately, this was not true for some of the components of the Sainte Chapelle, including the choir stalls, the rood screen dividing the main vestibule, the spire, which was taken down, and some of the relics, which were stolen and dispersed; those remnants that were recovered are now housed in the treasury of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Touring Paris chapels is an excellent way to learn about the history and charm emanating from the city. The Ile de la Cite is centrally located, meaning it is near numerous hotels and is easily reached on foot or via the Paris Metro. Visitors can purchase tickets for touring La Sainte Chapelle Paris, which can be combined with a tour of the Conciergerie, the oldest prison in Paris, where several notable prisoners were held before execution, including Marie Antoinette and leaders of the French Revolution. The Ile de la Cite is the oldest section of the city, and it has been the inspiration of many artists, writers, and even political leaders. Today, many travelers who are interested in the history of Paris visit this charming area to see the past that appears in the majestic buildings and soothing waters that surround the island.

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