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A Historical Tour of Medieval Paris: Saint Chapelle

 

Every traveler has a favorite spot. For some, it’s the rooftop bar of a hotel. For others, it’s the local food stall. And for others still, it’s the cathedral. In today’s blog, we’ll tell you why every history enthusiast should make a point of visiting one of the most exquisite places of art in the world—the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

1. A history of Saint Chapelle in Paris

St. Chapelle, one of Paris’s most stunning churches, was built in 1248 by King Saint Louis as a shrine for housing his collection of Christian artifacts, including the Christ’s Crown of Thorns. This Gothic masterpiece was damaged during the French Revolution and underwent a major transformation during the 19th century thanks to a vast renovation. The renovation, backed by the French emperor, restored the chapel to its former glory, sporting some of the most extraordinary stained glass windows imaginable. The chapel still stands today, serving as an iconic landmark that showcases intricate details from medieval times, making it a must-visit for anyone interested in architecture and history.

Architectural style

la-sainte-chapelle

Saint Chapelle is a Gothic French architecture renowned for its ornate decoration. Its interiors are designed with vibrant colors that depict part of Christ’s journey and sacrifice. The chapel was originally built in 1246 to house the Crown of Thorns of Christ collected by King Louis IX.

Much of Saint Chapelle today is the result of re-conceptions by its skilled restorers after being damaged during the French Revolution. The chapel’s architectural style is characterized by its pointed arches, intricate decoration, and stained glass windows that flood the interior with light.

Overall, Saint Chapelle is an impressive example of French Gothic architecture, and its historical and religious significance make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in medieval Parisian history.

2. Chapels

The larger chapel of Saint Chapelle, located within the historic heart of Paris, is a true Gothic masterpiece. The chapel boasts stunning stained-glass walls that are so vibrant they almost appear to be alive, and a vaulted ceiling that appears to reach the heavens. The lower chapel is exclusively reserved for court members and is mystically lit to ensure privacy and piousness. In contrast, the upper chapel was designated specifically for royalty and has an enormous rosette that delivers charming, natural light into the room.

While the chapel does not hold normal mass services, concerts take place year-round, and you can explore this stunning landmark on a historic tour of Medieval Paris. This chapel is a testament to the extraordinary architecture and immense power that the royals of old Paris once held, and is a must-see destination for anyone who visits the city.

Upper Chapel

upper chapel

Saint Chapelle’s Upper Chapel is a remarkable structure located in the heart of Paris, France. It dates back to the 12th century and is the oldest section of Saint Chapelle. The Upper Chapel has some of the most important Christian relics globally: the Crown of Thorns and the Holy Lance, making it an essential part of Christian history. The Chapel boasts of beautiful stained glass windows that depict various scenes from the Bible, and stunning carved stone choir stalls. A testament to medieval architecture, it provides visitors with breathtaking architectural wonders. Anyone who loves history and architecture would undoubtedly appreciate the Upper Chapel as a must-see destination in Paris.

Lower Chapel

Lower Chapel St Chapelle

Saint Chapelle is an essential part of medieval Paris and has been a popular attraction for tourists. The lower chapel is one of the two chapels that make up the Sainte-Chapelle. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the lower chapel was used for worship by members of the royal court. The lower chapel is decorated with deep blue ceilings featuring fleur-de-lis patterns and painted columns reminiscent of the medieval era. The chapel lacks lighting due to its small windows and lower ceilings, creating a mystical ambiance that will transport you back in time. If you’re interested in Paris’ rich history and unique culture, don’t forget to stop by the lower chapel of La Sainte-Chapelle.

3. How is the Sainte-Chapelle stained glass made?

stained glass st chapelle

The stained glass windows of the St Chapelle are a masterpiece. These windows consist of more than 220,000 pieces of glass and were created in the 13th century. Each window is a dazzling array of color and depicts various scenes from the Bible. It takes approximately 20 years to complete a single window panel. The Saint Chapelle was built between 1248 and 1254 and not only served as a place of worship but also housed the relics of the Passion of Christ. Tempera painting is the technique used to create these masterpieces. A layer of paint is applied onto the glass, and metallic oxides are added to create the different shades of color. Today, the Sainte-Chapelle stands as a testament to Gothic architecture and remains an iconic landmark of Paris.

4. Discover the Relics that Once Lived in St Chapelle

Saint Chapelle is a significant tourist spot that takes you on a historical tour of medieval Paris. It was created as a sacred space to house King Saint Louis IX’s collection of Christian artifacts, including the famous Ste-Couronne (Holy Crown) that he acquired from Constantinople. The reliquary built-in 1246 housed the ‘relics of the Crucifixion,’ which included the Crown of Thorns, and fragments of the Holy Cross. Saint Louis bought the Crown of Thorns from Venetian merchants and fragments of the Holy Cross from Baudoin II, king of Jerusalem in 1241. Sainte-Chapelle was not only an act of faith but also, a political deed to emphasize the close relationship between the Holy Relics and the monarchy. Unfortunately, the devastating cathedral fire of April 2019 forced the authorities to transfer the Crown Of Thorns to a safe inside the Louvre for safekeeping.

5. Appreciate the Rose Window Depicting the End of the World

rose window end of the world st chapelle

The main attraction of La Sainte-Chapelle is the rose window, which depicts the End of the World in a sheer display of colorful stained glass. It is accessible from the upper chapel and is a true masterpiece of Gothic period art. The window is divided into arches, and each individual section reads from left to right and from top to bottom, covering the biblical story of humanity from the Creation to redemption. The stained-glass windows in La Sainte-Chapelle are well-known for their rich and vibrant hues that add to the ethereal beauty of the chapel. They also represent the finest examples of 12th-century craftsmanship. If you are interested in religious depictions and architecture, St Chapelle is a not-to-miss destination in Paris!

6. Details & highlights of Saint Chapelle

st chapelle details

The structure is renowned for its exquisite architecture, including intricate details of sculptures and decorations on the interior and exterior. The stunning stained glass windows of St. Chapelle are a vital highlight of the chapel, consisting of 1,113 scenes that have been immaculately preserved. Visitors are captivated by the kaleidoscopic colors radiating from the windows, creating a unique atmosphere of peace and tranquility inside the chapel.

Additionally, the interior of Saint Chapelle features several chapels dedicated to different saints. The sculptures within these chapels depict various historical and religious events, and the chapel also has several famous frescoes that honor different aspects of French history. The exterior of the chapel also has numerous sculptures, including a well-known statue of the Virgin Mary.

7. Tours, tickets and accessibility

To plan your visit, admission costs €11.50 for adults and is free for children under 18 and EU residents ages 18-25. Daily 45-minute tours are available free of cost, with audioguides available for €3. Visitors can also enjoy classical concerts held exclusively in St Chapelle. Combination tickets are available at the Conciergerie, with priority access and shorter queues. Moreover, the chapel has an accessible entrance with adapted wheelchairs and wheelchair-friendly toilets, making it easily accessible to all visitors.

8. What’s nearby?

Saint Chapelle is a stunning example of Gothic architecture and is situated on Île de la Cité, close to Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre Museum and Eiffel Tower. Visitors can make a day of exploring the island, which hosts several tourist spots, including the Palais de Justice and the Hôtel de Ville which are only a few minutes walk away. Those interested in art can visit the Rodin Museum nearby, which is just a few minutes’ walk from La Saint Chapelle. So, make sure Saint Chapelle is part of your itinerary when you plan your visit to Paris!

9. Insider tips

  • Make the most out of your visit to La Sainte-Chapelle by following these insider tips. Join a free guided tour available in English to learn more about the chapel’s history, architecture, and unique features. You may also rent a 30-minute audioguide to dive deeper into the rich history of this medieval gem in Paris.
  • To explore the stunning stained glass windows in detail, make sure to download the Sainte Chapelle smartphone app. However, bear in mind that there are tight security measures in place. Some items, including pocket knives and scissors, are not allowed inside the chapel due to safety reasons.
  • For a soul-stirring musical experience, attend one of the classical or sacred-music concerts held at La Sainte-Chapelle throughout the year. Immerse yourself in the beauty of this medieval masterpiece and let the music transport you to another era.

 

A visit to the Saint Chapelle is not complete without a glimpse of this 13th-century gothic masterpiece. A visit to the chapel itself is an experience not to be missed. The stained glass windows and rose window are breathtaking, as is the chapel’s architecture and history. To learn more about the chapel, head on over to the website of the cathedral and read up on their blog. It’s filled with historical facts and beautiful illustrations that make you feel like you’re there! You can also check our Catacombs of Paris post for discovering more historical places!

10. Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is Sainte-Chapelle famous for?

Sainte-Chapelle is famous for its stained glass windows and the Christ's Crown of Thorns. It is also known as the shrine for the Ste-Couronne (Holy Crown) and attracts visitors from all over the world. The building was commissioned by King Saint Louis as the shrine for the Christ's Crown of Thorns, a relic that was said to have been found on the site of Jesus' crucifixion. Tickets to visit Sainte-Chapelle should be purchased at opening time to avoid long queues. Weekend visits are also recommended to avoid the crowds.

Is Saint Chapelle free?

It is not free to visit Saint Chapelle, but it is open to the public from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm. You can tour the church without paying for admission by visiting the ticket office on site.

Is Sainte-Chapelle worth a visit?

Visiting Sainte-Chapelle is one of the most popular activities in Paris, and for good reason. This majestic cathedral is filled with beautiful carvings, stunning stained glass windows, and historical significance. Currently, a beauty restoration project is taking place at Sainte-Chapelle from September 2020 to December 2021. However, key highlights that visitors should see during their visit include ornate carvings, stunning stained glass windows, and historical significance. For a quick visit to Paris, Sainte-Chapelle can be appreciated from the outside with a guide. However, if time permits, it's worth visiting the cathedral itself to get a more complete experience. Standing inside the beautiful stained glass windows gives you the feeling of being inside a jewel box.

Is Sainte-Chapelle free on first Sunday?

Yes, Sainte-Chapelle is always free on the first Sunday of the month. However, expect bigger crowds during these times as people tend to skip the line and go straight to the chapel. To avoid the crowds, best times to visit Sainte-Chapelle are early mornings or late evenings when it's less busy. The chapel is open daily from 9am-5pm from October to March and 9am-7pm from April to September.

How do I get to the Sainte-Chapelle?

To get to Sainte-Chapelle, you can take the metro station Cité (Line 4) or RER station Saint-Michel Notre-Dame. When arriving, you will need to go through security in the Palais de Justice. Late arrivals are not guaranteed entry and may have to wait for the next tour.

 

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Simge Sor

I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.
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