Facts about Sainte Chapelle

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Sainte Chapelle is another Paris treasure with historical stories and secrets you will love to discover.

From the construction, its famous stained glass windows, holy relics and more, our guide will cover all the facts about Sainte Chapelle.

Sainte Chapelle’s Construction 

Sainte Chapelle Paris is a medieval Gothic chapel on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France. 

King Louis IX built it in the mid-13th century to house his collection of precious relics. It took seven years to complete. Its construction is one of the fastest.

The collection includes the Crown of Thorns, believed to be worn by Jesus Christ at the time of his crucifixion and around 30 other items.

In addition to serving as a place of worship, this chapel also achieved the King’s political and cultural goals. 

The most amazing thing to see at Sainte Chapelle

Imagine stepping into a glass house with stained windows at a time when lots of sunlight is streaming in through them! 

When first entering the upper chapel of Sainte-Chapelle, you may feel overwhelmed. About eighty percent of the walls consist of stained glass.

You can count the 15 glass walls, all about 49 feet high. 

However, there are many more distinct windows and searching for them seems like a treasure hunt.

There are precisely 1,113 separate windows, many featuring intricate scenes from religious history.

Each colorful glass panel is of tiny pieces showing some sacred mysteries of Christian texts.

What will you see on the stained glass windows?

The most amazing thing to see at Sainte Chapelle in Paris
Image: Jorisvo / Getty

The upper level of the chapel features 15 large windows that depict scenes from the Old Testament, while the lower level has five windows that depict scenes from the New Testament. 

Together, the windows tell the story of salvation from the beginning of the world to the Last Judgment. 

Windows on the upper level demonstrate the continuity of God’s plan from the Old to the New Testament.

The lower level windows focus on the life and Passion of Christ. 

Using light and color in the windows is symbolic and enhances the religious narrative.

For example, one vivid scene depicts the second plague of Egypt. 

There are bright yellow and pink frogs that cover the Egyptians’ clothing. 

Another glass piece shows Moses splitting the Red Sea. 

You will find a moving depiction of the Passion in one New Testament scene with Jesus on the cross.

The 2 chapels

Another one of the interesting facts about Sainte Chapelle is its architecture was meant to inspire and has fulfilled its promise for centuries. 

You will see the two different chapels if you are lucky enough to visit this place.

The lower chapel is dedicated initially as the parish church, and the upper one is a tribute to the king and his family.

In the 19th century, the authorities thoroughly restored these chapels. A couple of narrow circular staircases connect the two chapels.

The upper-level decoration consists of descriptions and drawings of the original buildings.

However, the lower level was entirely reinvented for lack of documentation.

Unlock the mysteries of windows with an app

Unlock the mysteries of windows
Image: Sainte-chapelle.fr

Facts about Sainte Chapelle also include a new app, “Sainte-Chapelle Windows.” 

Install it, and you may take a brief audio-guided tour that explains the stories behind the biblical images.

You may view the rose window up close for free; there is much to see just in that intricate window. 

The paid version costs roughly a euro and includes all the windows.

Once housed 22 religious relics

Saint-Louis initially bought 22 relics, which include

  • The Holy Crown
  • The Blood of Christ
  • The Holy Cross
  • Pieces of nails and spearhead
  • The Holy Shroud
  • Hair of the Virgin
  • Fragments of the Virgin’s veil
  • The rod of Moses

The most beautiful relics were in the large shrine in the upper chapel.

However, there are now just three: the crown of thorns, a piece of the cross and a nail, which are priceless components of Notre Dame de Paris. 

These artifacts are no longer in the Sainte-Chapelle.

Nearly destroyed by revolutionaries

One of the well-known facts about Sainte Chapelle is that it was used as a royal chapel for over 200 years before falling into disrepair during the French Revolution.  

The chapel was closed and used as a warehouse and a saltpeter factory during the revolution. 

It was almost dismantled, but miraculously the majority of the stained glass windows were saved from destruction.

In the 19th century, it was restored and is now open to the public as a historical monument. 

Today, it is a popular tourist attraction known for its beautiful architecture and collection of over 1,100 stained glass panels.

An excellent example of Gothic architecture

The chapel is considered one of the finest examples of Rayonnant Gothic architecture.

Construction of the chapel began in 1242, and it was completed in just seven years. 

This impressive feat is a testament to the skill and dedication of the builders, who were able to create such an intricate and beautiful structure in such a short period. 

It features a large, brightly-lit main hall with soaring walls of stained glass, which depict scenes from the old and new testaments. 

The upper level also has a small royal chapel.

82 petals on the rose-stained glass

82 petals on the rose-stained glass
Image: Demerzel21 / Getty

The Sainte-Chapelle in Paris features several beautiful stained glass windows, one of which is the large rose window on the eastern wall of the chapel. 

This window is round, forming a wall of light covering the chapel’s west wall.

The more beautiful the rose window is, the darker the history it depicts. 

A total of 82 colorful petals on the rose-stained glass display the Book of Revelation, the last section of the Bible.

You can see God sitting on the throne, holding the Book of the Seven Seals, Saint John and the Seven Churches of Asia at the feet of Christ.

Who was the architect of the Chapelle?

You may only know about Saint King Louis but not about the architect of Sainte Chapelle. This remains a mystery to date.

During that time, architectural design and construction were only sometimes attributed to specific individuals in the way they are today.

It’s also worth noting that the construction of such a building was a collaborative effort between multiple artisans, architects and artists from different backgrounds.

Book your Sainte Chapelle online tickets and unlock this monument’s mysteries yourself.

FAQs

What are some historical facts about Sainte Chapelle?

One of the most important historical facts about Sainte Chapelle is that many stained glasses are reproductions.

The impressive windows were reproduced in the 19th to restore the church from surviving documents about its appearance and construction. 

Another exciting fact is that Sainte Chapelle costs less than the relics stored.

What is one fun fact about Sainte Chapelle?

One fun fact about Sainte Chapelle is that the relics stored inside the monument cost more than Chapelle.

Saint Louis purchases the Crown of Thorns for about 135,000 livres, equaling half of the country’s annual income.

The Sainte also spent 1,000 livres storing the relics in an expensive silver chest.

How many people visit Sainte Chapelle?

About 90,000 visitors come to Sainte Chapelle every year.

Tourists worldwide, including the locals, come to explore Chapelle’s oldest, tallest and most stunning stained glass windows, which depict different stories.

Not only the glass windows, but people are also attracted to its beautiful interiors and its exciting history.

Who is the architect of Sainte Chapelle?

One of the most interesting historical facts about Sainte Chapelle is that its architect still needs to be discovered.

We know that Chapelle replaced the old Saint Nichol, whose destruction took place to make way for it.

Although Sainte-Loius commissioned it, the name of the architect who designed it still needs to be discovered.

What does the rose windows represent?

The rose window in Sainte Chapelle shows the world’s end.

The stories depicted in the Rose Window come from the Book of Revelation, the last section of the Bible, with a prediction for the end of the current stage.

In it, you can find God on his throne with the Book of Seven Seals, Saint John and seven Churches of Asia on his feet.

When was the chapel used as a storeroom?

In 1797, Sainte Chapelle was a storeroom for the Ministry of Justice files.
It was later converted into a repository or storage facility for the Minister’s Courthouse’s essential archives.

However, under pressure from public opinion to convert the chapel back, its restoration work was approved in 1836 and would last up to 26 years.

When was Sainte Chapelle constructed?

Sainte Chapelle was constructed in the 13th century by King Louis, who later became one of France’s most famous saints.

Sainte Louis had earned his sainthood by bringing back the crown of thrones and had built Sainte Chapelle to store his possessions.

Sainte Chapelle was also home to 21 other sacred relics important to Western Christianity.

Does Sainte Chapelle have mass?

Sainte-Chapelle has no regular mass services held at the chapel. 

However, the chapel is occasionally used for concerts and other events throughout the year. 

Visitors who wish to attend a Roman Catholic mass in Paris can find regular services at other churches in the city, such as Saint Etienne du Mont and Eglise Saint Severin.

Is Sainte Chapelle a Catholic church?

Yes, Sainte-Chapelle is a Catholic church.

It is a royal chapel built in the Gothic style, located within the medieval Palais de la Cité in Paris, France.

It is affiliated with the Catholic Church and is part of the Archdiocese of Paris, following the Roman Rite.

Is Sainte Chapelle part of Notre Dame?

No, Sainte-Chapelle is not part of Notre Dame.

It is a separate and distinct Gothic-style church built between 1242 and 1248 to house the relics of the Passion of Christ, including the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the True Cross. 

While both are located on the Île de la Cité in Paris, they are two independent religious landmarks in close proximity to each other.

Featured Images: Chris Chabot / Getty images

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