A trip to Paris is incomplete without visiting the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sainte Chapelle. Located on the banks of the Seine on Ile de la Cite, Sainte Chapelle is a 13th-century Parisian landmark renowned for its architecture and religious and historical significance. On the outside, the chapel features conventional Gothic-style stone walls, but on the inside, it contains the most stunning collection of stained glass windows. The colourful 50-feet tall stained glass windows are the major highlight of Sainte Chapelle and depict over 1,000 scenes from the Old and New Testaments from the Bible.

Although Sainte Chapelle Paris is not used as a church anymore and is largely recognized for its architectural beauty, it formerly served an essential purpose. King Louis IX commissioned this monument as a royal chapel to house his priceless holy relics, including the precious Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross. Although most of these gems are no longer stored in the building, it remains an architectural marvel and home to the world's most extensive collection of 13th-century stained glass.

Sainte Chapelle History

Sainte Chapelle, located on Ile de la Cite within the premises of the 14th-century royal residence Palais de la Cite, is an iconic landmark of Paris. Its construction was commissioned in the 13th century by King Louis IX with the primary goal of displaying his incredible collection of sacred relics. This monument, which has two equal-sized levels, was said to have been completed in 1248. The upper level was used to store sacred artefacts and was solely available to the royal family, whilst the lower level was open to all courtiers, warriors, and servants.

The cathedral, designed in Gothic architectural style, served as a significant place of worship and was embellished with spectacular stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible. Throughout the long Sainte Chapelle history, it has withstood several calamities and vandalism attempts, including catastrophic fires and the horrors of the French Revolution. Many restorations have taken place throughout the years to preserve this ancient monument and its stunning stained glass windows.

Sainte Chapelle Interior
Acquisition of the Holy Relics

One of Sainte Chapelle's 15 stained glass windows tells the narrative of King Louis IX's great collection of priceless holy relics. According to Sainte Chapelle history, King Louis IX purchased the Relics of the Passion from Constantinople's King Baudouin II to demonstrate his religious and political supremacy. Some relics that King Louis IX bought from him include the Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and other artefacts related to the Virgin Mary and the Saints.

Sainte Chapelle
Transfer of the Holy Relics

The Holy Relics were initially placed in the "Grand-Chasse" of the Sainte Chapelle Paris. However, during the French Revolution, the preservation of relics and other sacred symbols associated with the monarchy was banned. As a result, the Crown of Thorns and all other relics were turned over to the Archbishop of Paris in 1804. They were then kept in the Notre-Dame treasury in Paris until the devastating fire in 2019. Following the tragedy, all antiquities housed within Notre Dame were relocated to the Louvre Museum for protection.

Construction of Sainte Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle Exteriors

King Louis IX commissioned the magnificent Sainte Chapelle Paris in 1238 to house his sacred relics. The construction of this Gothic-style chapel is mostly credited to French architect Pierre de Montreuil. However, there is no documented evidence to back up this belief.

Regarding its structure, Sainte Chapelle is an architectural marvel featuring stone walls on the exterior and vibrant stained glass windows inside. It contains two floors and 15 stained glass windows that are 50 feet tall and portray 1,113 biblical stories. The rose window, which was constructed in the 15th century, is another famous element of Sainte Chapelle. It has more than 80 petals and is notable for its artistic appeal. Sainte Chapelle was completed in 1248 and has since undergone various restorations.

Architecture of Sainte Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle Paris is considered among the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Nestled amidst other famous Gothic monuments like Notre Dame and Chartres Cathedral, Sainte Chapelle Paris is famous for its Rayonnant-style design. It has 50-foot-tall stained-glass windows that make you feel like you've stepped into a kaleidoscope.

Its steeple, upper and lower levels, and windows all emanate divinity and serenity. Its great shrine, vaults, Apostle statues, and 15th-century rose windows are also worth looking at. While visiting Ile de la Cite, stop by this UNESCO World Heritage site and take in its exquisite architectural beauty.

Sainte Chapelle

The steeple of Sainte Chapelle Paris is a distinct element of the iconic Gothic monument. It rises at a height of 108 feet and has been constructed four times in Sainte Chapelle history. The first steeple was built in the 13th century but was replaced in 1460. The new steeple was destroyed in 1630 and yet again in 1793 during the French revolution. The present steeple was built in the 1850s and is made entirely of cedar wood. It features beautiful wood engravings of angels and is a sight to behold.

Beautiful Sainte Chapelle
Western Facade

The western facade of Sainte Chapelle Paris includes a two-story porch with a central bag and two narrow central bays on the sides. The famous rose window that was added to the chapel in the 15th century adorns the upper chapel on the western front of the monument. It has 82 petals that glow wonderfully as light passes through them. The portal of both floors features beautiful carvings. The spires of the towers are likewise embellished with royal fleur-de-lys beneath a carved crown of thorns.

Sainte Chapelle
The Lower Chapel

The Lower Chapel of Sainte Chapelle Paris is barely 21 feet tall, but it is a sight to behold due to its beautifully arched ceilings supported by gilded flying buttresses. In addition to its elegant ceiling, you must also look at the impressive statue of King Louis IX and the beautiful embellishments on the columns. Historically, this section of Sainte Chapelle was only accessible to troops, servants, and courtiers and was mainly used for offering prayers.

Sainte Chapelle (PNG)
The Upper Chapel

Despite its basic design, the Upper Chapel of Sainte Chapelle Paris is the most spectacular section of the monument. For a long time, the walls of the upper chapel have stunned architects and historians. The upper chapel's walls appear to be entirely made of tinted glass rather than stone or bricks.

Initially, this space was solely reserved for the royal family and their distinguished guests. The sacred relics obtained by King Louis IX were also kept here. While you cannot see the precious relics in the chapel anymore, you can certainly admire its beautiful architecture.

Windows at Sainte Chapelle
Sainte Chapelle's Stained Glass

The stained glass windows are unquestionably the highlight of Sainte Chapelle. The iconic 15 stained glass windows of the chapel depict over 1,000 Biblical scenes using only five colours: red, blue, yellow, purple, and green. From Genesis to the life of Jesus Christ, you can practically read the Bible by interpreting the episodes illustrated on the windows.

While 14 of them depict biblical stories, only one narrates how King Louis IX gathered the precious relics and brought them to Paris. The stained glass windows of Sainte Chapelle are not only breathtakingly beautiful but are also the world's largest collection of 13th-century stained glass.

Sainte Chapelle Sculpture

The entire Sainte Chapelle is embellished with stunning sculptures. Although most of them were destroyed in the French Revolution, a French sculptor Adolphe-Victor Geoffroy-Dechaume recreated them between 1855 and 1870.

Some of the most stunning sculptural pieces in the chapel are Christ and the Last Judgement, the creation of Eve from Adam’s Rib, and Noah’s Ark and the Flood. While the upper chapel's walls are adorned with beautiful 13th-century sculptures of the Apostles, the lower chapel houses a magnificent statue of King Louis IX.

Plan Your Visit to Sainte Chapelle

How to Reach
Other Essential Information
Best Time to Visit
Sainte Chapelle
  • By Train: Take Metro line 4 and get off at the Cite stop. You may also travel via Metro lines 1 and 14.
  • By Bus: Board buses with route numbers 21, 24, 27, 85, or 96 to reach Sainte Chapelle Paris. You may also get on the Batobus which stops near Notre Dame.

- By Car/Bike: If travelling by car or bicycle, simply follow the Seine River's banks till Châtelet or Saint-Michel, then follow the directions to Boulevard du Palais.

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