Sainte-Chapelle in Paris


In the historical center of Paris, on the island of Cité, there is one of the most beautiful monuments of Gothic architecture - the Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel), built in the 13th century by order of Louis IX. It is part of the grandiose architectural ensemble of the palace complex, the main building of which until February 1358 was the royal residence; after the uprising that year, it became known as the Palace of the Parliament, and later - Palace of Justice.


The chapel was necessary for the worthy preservation and veneration of especially valuable Christian shrines, many of which were removed from Constantinople during the Crusades. Another part of the relics Louis IX acquired from the Venetian merchants, to whom they came from the Latin Emperor Baldwin II as a pledge (among them were the testimonies of the Passion of the Lord - the Crown of Thorns, part of the cross on which the crucified Jesus Christ suffered, nails and the tip of the spear that pierced him ).

When the casket with the crown of thorns was delivered to France, at a distance of tens of kilometers from Paris, Louis IX met him and barefoot, in a rough shirt, went with his brother at the head of the solemn procession, to the greetings of the jubilant people. “Saint” was often added to the name of this monarch, as he was famous for piety and during his reign built more churches and monasteries than castles, and spiritual impulses forced him to personally carry wheelbarrows with stones to the construction of religious sites.

The chapel, conceived as a reliquary, was erected quite quickly (1242-48), and it became a real masterpiece: its splendor amazed and delighted contemporaries and all subsequent generations. Interesting figures have come down to us from the depths of the centuries: the construction of a two-level chapel required huge, at that time, costs in the amount of 40 thousand livres (the count's castle could then be built for 1,2 thousand livres), and a deal with merchants when buying relics cost 135 thousand livres.

organ Sainte-chapel

Sainte-Chapelle was consecrated in April 1248 in honor of the Holy Cross (upper tier) and the Virgin Mary (lower tier). Since that time, every Holy Friday, the True Cross of the Lord was solemnly brought out here for worship. The French believed that the relics miraculously protected the king and the whole country.

The Holy Chapel survived fires and floods, but during the years of the French Revolution (1789-99) it, like many other objects associated with monarchism and religion, was not bypassed by the destructive hatred of the rebels. During this troubled period, the chapel was repeatedly robbed and smashed - it lost priceless shrines and furniture; an almost three-meter shrine made of gilded copper and silver was taken out for remelting, and much was mutilated inside and outside the building.

Some crushed, while others saved. Thanks to this, it was possible to preserve the organs (they were placed in the Church of Saint-Germain-l'Oserroix) and most of the statues (the merit of the archaeologist A. Lenoir). But some of the stolen relics disappeared, and for those that were found in the cycle of historical events, other places of storage were determined.

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Sainte-chapelle du palais

The chapel, whose age is approaching eight centuries, has been restored several times. In particular, in the 15th century a new spire was installed on it and a round stained-glass window was replaced. In 1830 - 60s. carried out large-scale work to restore and apply a new painting on the walls that suffered during the flood in the 17th century, as well as to recreate the spire destroyed in the revolution, restore the building itself and the surviving stained-glass windows. Why "survivors"? Yes, because in 1803 an archive was placed in the premises of the chapel, and before that, part of the stained-glass windows was removed and sold or destroyed. Already in this century, restorers have been painstakingly working on seven stained-glass windows for several years, for which €10,0 million has been allocated.

Sainte-Chapelle is included in the lists of national historical monuments of France and the world heritage of UNESCO.

Building architecture

Until the chapel in the royal residence was erected and consecrated, the relics were kept in the Holy Chapel of the Château Saint-Germain, which architecturally became the prototype for Saint-Chapelle. The construction was headed by the famous architect - Pierre de Montreuil, also known by the nickname "Pierre of Montreuil". It is believed that in this work of his, religious ideas about the universe, engineering, geometry and many crafts were brought together in the most magnificent way.

According to the plan of the architects, the shape of the chapel looks like a casket designed to store religious relics - a reliquary, which, in fact, it became. It is crowned by a graceful spire, soaring 75 m, and around the perimeter of the roof there are evil chimeras, reminiscent of those that look from the heights of Notre Dame Cathedral. The real dimensions of the chapel do not overwhelm the imagination (35 m long, 11 m wide), but architectural solutions and tricks make it possible to perceive this building as large and, at the same time, transparent, almost weightless. Many of its elements are similar to rich embroidery.

Sainte-Chapelle 2

Outside, the combination of the lightness of the upper structures with powerful buttresses and a strict foundation looks amazing. The interior space of the chapel is visually enlarged due to the non-standard size of one of the spans: by shortening it by 35 cm compared to the others, the authors of the project created a perspective in which the nave appears longer, and the window (the so-called "rose") on the western wall is larger.

In construction, a great innovation was the use of metal ties to hold the stone blocks, although this was expensive (reinforced concrete appeared six centuries later).

The lower tier of the chapel was intended for courtiers, guards who guarded the palace, and servants. The vaults in this part of the chapel are not high (6,6 m) and here, it would seem, it should be gloomy due to the lack of light, but its decoration is so multicolored that this feeling does not arise. Many thin columns divide the room into three parts - the central and side aisles, and also support the vaults on which the upper tier rests. Thanks to the grace of the columns and blind arcades along the walls, the impression of spaciousness is created, a small space seems to expand.

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Sainte-Chapelle 4

The upper tier of the chapel was set aside for the storage of shrines (on a special pedestal there was a richest cancer for them) and the prayers of the king, his family and entourage. From the bottom it was possible to get there by a narrow staircase, and from the palace - through the outer gallery, which has not survived to our time.

The powerful pillars installed here do not look like such: their solidity is hidden behind several thinnest columns standing close to each other. The frame of the walls was designed in such a way that as much space as possible was left for the installation of windows. After the installation of stained-glass windows, the total area of ​​​​which occupied more than 600 m2, it began to seem that the walls did not exist at all - they were lost against the background of a stream of light pouring into the chapel through the colored windows, especially on sunny days.

What to see in Sainte-Chapelle

Great taste and imagination were shown in the design of both tiers of the chapel. The choice of means and methods of furnishing interiors was also influenced by the difference in the architecture of the premises and their purpose. Many decorative elements attract attention - every now and then you want to slow down, peer and admire, learn about them in more detail.

Lower tier

The windows here are small, but they are decorated with stained-glass windows with a story about the life of the Virgin Mary. This mosaic was made in the 19th century and replaced the ordinary glass that was inserted in the 12th century after the flood. In the colors of this tier, the leading roles are given to gold, red and blue colors. On all walls there are decorative arches in the form of a shamrock; apostles are depicted in twelve medallions.

lower tier

The columns are decorated with painting - lilies on an azure background (royal heraldry) and, alternating with them, the fortress towers (in honor of the Queen Mother, Blanca of Castile). The vaults, the colors of the night sky, are painted with gold stars and edged with gold ornaments. There are slabs on the floor marking the resting places of the canons and guardians of the church treasury.

Upper level

The upper - royal - part of the chapel is unique in its beauty. There is only one nave, but its dimensions are impressive: height 20,5 m, width 17,0 m. Thanks to the huge multi-colored stained-glass windows, the room is filled with flickering, play and overflows of light. And when the rays of the sun penetrate all of its space, this effect is so strong that it is possible to tell about what you see only with the help of poetic comparisons and vivid epithets.

In addition to the arrangement of magnificent lighting, an even more important task was solved by means of stained glass art: turning to the Old and New Testaments, to show the history of mankind, from the Creation of the world to the Apocalypse. Most of the stained-glass windows, in which this grandiose idea was embodied, are original, i.e. preserved from the 13th century, others are the result of the work of restorers.

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The area of ​​stained-glass windows is so large that they managed to place over a thousand plots, which should be read in a certain order - moving clockwise from the northern wall. The screen installed in the chapel helps to better view the biblical and religious scenes and understand their meaning. There is also a story about how Louis IX brought the shrines to Paris.

upper tier

Stained glass windows are made in different shapes. On the western wall, the window is round and looks like an open rose. The contours of its many bright petals resemble tongues of fire, which makes understandable the expression "flaming gothic", often used in stories about the chapel. Eight windows have four lancet arches, and all the others have two arches. Color combinations also vary: the “rose”, made in the 15th century, is more multicolored than the other 15 stained glass windows, the mosaic of which is dominated by red and blue elements, which also suggests flames.

The pillars separating and supporting the stained-glass windows are very interesting: each of them is "assembled" from nine thin graceful columns. There are 12 statues of the apostles in the piers; some of them are originals, considered masterpieces of sculptural Gothic. The former splendor of their painting and the lost sculptures were restored during the restoration work.

A high plinth runs through the entire room of the second tier, and the arcades that decorate it are made of marble so skillfully that they look delicate. The arcades are interrupted by large niches, two of which were once intended for royalty. In this part of the chapel, the number of large and small architectural and decorative elements that make it beautiful and majestic is simply amazing.

Having visited Sainte-Chapelle, one cannot but admire the genius of medieval architects who managed to create such a masterpiece. Their talent made it possible to fill this building with the warmth and joy of the light of God, which for centuries has brought delight and awe to souls.

Access to the chapel and Christian shrines

Sainte-Chapelle is open to visitors every day, except on holidays. It is forbidden to bring metal objects there - this is controlled by the gendarmes on duty at the entrance. If you happen to visit Paris in the summer, you can not only see this impressive historical and cultural monument, but also visit one of the classical music concerts, which are often held in the chapel building and are a huge success with the public.

saint chapel

The relics, once kept in the royal chapel, have been in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris for more than two hundred years. You can worship them on strictly defined days, taking into account the Catholic church calendar:

  • The crown of thorns is taken out at 15-00 every month on the 1st Friday and on Great Lent every Friday;
  • a particle of the Holy Cross is taken out from 10-00 to 17-00 on Good Friday.

Getting there

Address: 8 Boulevard du Palais, Paris 75001
Phone: + 33 1 53 40 60 80
Metro: Cite
Opening hours: 9: 30-18: 00, 9: 00-17: 00 (in winter)

Buy tickets online