A Unique Set of 1,113 Stained Glass Windows of Sainte Chapelle

The stained glass windows in the upper chapel of the Sainte-Chapelle depict scenes from the Bible, from the creation of the world to the end of time. 

The windows are so beautiful and impressive that they are one of the main reasons people visit the chapel.

They are made up of 1,113 panels with brightly colored stained glass so tall that they almost reach the ceiling. 

The colors in the windows are amazing, and they change depending on the time of day.

This guide will answer all your questions about the Sainte Chapelle windows.

The stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle are the main attraction. But what do they depict?

Stained Glass Windows of Sainte-Chapelle
Image: paola capelletto on Unsplash

Sainte Chapelle is full of stunning stained glass windows in the upper chapel. There are 15 giant windows, each about 50 feet (15 meters) tall.

Special pointed arches, a feature of Gothic architecture, hold the glass panels together at the top.

These arches meet at the ceiling and create beautiful shapes and shadows. They’re decorated with a dark blue and golden star pattern resembling the night sky.

Inside these 15 windows are 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

They depict Biblical stories and explain how precious holy objects got to Paris.

In Catholicism, they often put holy things in fancy containers called reliquaries. 

Some look like shiny golden boxes, while others are like tiny gem-covered castles. 

You can see amazing reliquaries in Paris museums like the Louvre and the Musée du Cluny. 

Sainte-Chapelle is like a huge reliquary turned inside out. Instead of the decoration being outside, it’s all on the inside, in the stained glass windows.

They start with the creation of the earth, Adam and Eve, and then go on to show the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. 

Finally, they end with the final judgment in a big circular window called a “rose window”.

Why is it called a rose window? There are no roses.

rose window
Image: Wikimedia.org

The term “rose window” refers to big circular stained glass windows, especially in fancy churches. 

The first ones were simpler, like round stone-carved windows in old churches. 

But the ones we see today, with lots of colors and patterns, are from the Gothic period that began in the 12th century. 

The windows resemble rose flowers, with colorful petals radiating from the center. 

Sainte-Chapelle’s rose window, made around 1495, is like a dazzling firework of colors.

History of Stained Glass Windows

History of Stained Glass Windows
Image: Wikimedia.org

The stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle are divided into three cycles:

  • The historic cycle tells the story of the Old Testament, from Adam and Eve to the kings of Israel.
  • The prophetic cycle tells the story of the New Testament, from the birth of Jesus to the end of the world.
  • The passion cycle tells the story of the suffering and death of Christ.

The windows are so large and detailed that they are like a giant comic book from the Middle Ages. 

Why Sainte Chapelle was built

The Sainte-Chapelle was built for three main reasons:

  • To house the Crown of Thorns and other holy relics: King Louis IX was a devout Catholic and determined to build a special place to house the most precious Christian relics in the world.
  • To demonstrate the power and wealth of France: The Sainte Chapelle was one of the most expensive buildings of its time. It was a way for Louis IX to show the world that France was a powerful and wealthy country.
  • To attract Christian pilgrims: It was a major pilgrimage destination for Christians from all over Europe. People came to see the holy relics and marvel at the chapel’s beauty.

The Sainte Chapelle was also a way for Louis IX to promote the Gothic style of architecture, and it helped spread the style throughout Europe.

In short, the Sainte Chapelle was built to symbolize French power, wealth, and piety. 

What makes these windows so special?

It’s not just one impressive window. It’s the sheer number of stained glass windows in the upper chapel. 

When you look at them, it feels like the walls have disappeared, and all you see is light and color. It’s truly spectacular.

Some glass panels were replaced during renovations over the centuries. So, maybe a few aren’t in the same order as before.

When’s the best time to visit to see Sainte Chapelle’s stained glass windows at their best

best time to visit to see Sainte Chapelle’s Stained Glass Windows
Image: Tripadvisor.in

Many visitors prefer visiting Sainte Chapelle in the summer, when the sunlight through the colorful windows creates a vibrant hue inside the chapel. 

But we recommend even more lighting in the winter. 

Sainte Chapelle adjusts its opening hours in the autumn and winter to ensure you get enough daylight since the windows aren’t artificially lit from the outside.

You can learn about Sainte Chapelle’s opening hours and the best time to visit here.

Is there a specific order to look at the windows?

You can follow the Bible stories from Genesis to the Apocalypse, but there are no strict rules.

Spend more time on the scenes that catch your eye. 

If you want guidance, detailed descriptions and audio guides can help you explore better.

The entry ticket to Sainte Chapelle will cost 12 euros if you are 18 or older.

If you want to include an audio guide, you must pay an additional 6 euros.

Who designed these stained glass windows?

Who designed these stained glass windows
Image: Britannica.com

It’s widely believed that Pierre de Montreuil, who worked on other famous Paris buildings, oversaw Sainte Chapelle’s construction. 

The stained glass at Saint-Denis in Paris and Chartres Cathedral are also from that period and worth visiting.


What do the stained glass windows in Sainte Chapelle represent?

The stained glass windows in Sainte Chapelle represent many biblical stories, from Creation to the Apocalypse. 

They are arranged chronologically, beginning with the windows on the north side of the chapel, which depict the Old Testament, and ending with the windows on the south side, which depict the New Testament.

How many stained glass windows are in Sainte Chapelle?

There are 15 stained glass windows in Sainte Chapelle. 

They are located in the upper chapel, known for its soaring ceilings and walls, which are almost entirely glass.

They comprise over 670 square meters of glass and contain over 1,113 individual scenes from the Bible.

When was the stained glass in Sainte-Chapelle?

The stained glass windows in Sainte-Chapelle were made between 1243 and 1248. 

King Louis IX of France commissioned them to house the Crown of Thorns and other sacred relics of the Passion of Christ.

What did stained glass symbolize?

The light that shines through stained glass windows is seen as a symbol of the divine light of God. 

This light can represent many different things, such as hope, truth, love, and life. 

It’s also a symbol of Christ himself, as he is often called the “Light of the World.”

What are the religious symbols in stained glass?

Stained glass windows have been used in churches and other religious buildings for centuries to teach people about the Bible and the Christian faith. 

The colors and imagery used in stained glass windows often have symbolic meaning.

Featured Image : Héctor J. Rivas on Unsplash

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