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Paris The Right Bank - Sainte Chappelle


If waiting in line to get into the Sainte-Chapelle can sometimes feel like the via dolorosa itself, it is worth the wait and possibly unlike anything else you will see during your time in the city, for the impression after climbing the stone-cut spiral staircase as you walk into the upper floor of the chapel is one of finding yourself in a gigantic jewelry box. The 140-foot high ceilings were an architectural wonder for the residents of the Île de la Cité in 1248 when the chapel was consecrated. Louis IX (later canonized Saint Louis) gave the order to construct the Sainte-Chapelle as a reliquary for his impressive collection of religious treasures purchased from Baldwin II, Emperor of Constantinople, who had in turn accumulated the booty from a couple of barnstorming crusades. The jewel in the crown of the collection was the crown itself, a 2-ounce weight of thorny briars, transported from Constantinople by two Dominican friars and paraded into the chapel in a solemn ceremony by the penitent and barefoot Louis. During the French Revolution the chapel was used as a grain store and then later as working offices for the nearby Palais de Justice, while the crown of thorns and its gilded carrying case was moved to nearby Notre Dame (it is currently housed at the Louvre following the 2019 fire at the cathedral). But it is the magnificently restored stained glass window display that still amazes here, aided by the ever-shifting light as it oscillates around this 900 year-old wonder of Gothic architecture. In addition to the extraordinary light display, the first-time visitor cannot help but be surprised by the small space on the main floor (and indeed one could be forgiven for a quick mental comparison with the Sistine Chapel). The stories depicted in the stained glass windows at the Sainte-Chapelle are read right to left and top to bottom, and fervent biblical scholars or even amateur enthusiasts could realistically spend most of the day here deciphering them.

Sainte-Chapelle, 10 Boulevard du Palais, 75001.

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