A jewelry box. A light show. A diamond reflecting the light with its many facets.
This is La Sainte Chapelle in Paris
and more. It is best to visit this gem of a chapel during the day, when there is plenty of sunlight. La Sainte Chapelle may be small, but oh, the wonder and excitement when you see how natural light plays with it!
La Sainte Chapelle (or Holy Chapel) harks back to 1246, when it was built as a home to the relics of the True Cross. This includes the purported Crown of Thorns that Jesus wore during his crucifixion. This was acquired by the Crusader King (King Louis IX), along with a portion of the True Cross. The chapel is small, when compared to the buildings that surround it. It is 36 meters long, 17 meters wide and 42.5 meters high, with a 33-meter high spire made of cedar. Its beauty has caused it to be named as a Historic National Monument in as early as 1862.
The chapel has two levels – the lower chapel (chapelle basse) is for the palace servants while the upper chapel (chapelle haute) was for the king, and those close to him – his relatives and his courtiers.
The chapelle basse is adorned with fleur-de-lis on an azure background and features flying buttresses, while the chapelle haute is a splendid example of Gothic art. This chapel is dedicated to the beloved Virgin Mary. Her statue is located next to the portal's central pier. There are also twelve medallions on the wall, each symbolizing an Apostle. The chapel also features vaunted ceilings that are painted to depict the starry heavens. On the floor, you can find the sepulchers of important personages of the Sainte-Chapelle – its reverends and treasurers.
The upper chapel features 15 stained glass windows with rich reds and blues. It simply is stupendous. Light and color intermingle to create a highly religious atmosphere. These windows come almost wall to wall, so that the wall is almost covered with the colored glass.
Well, the windows cover some 1,100 scenes about Old and New Testament stories. In all, the chapel has over 600 square meters of stained glass. There is a scene about the Garden of Eden, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the Apocalypse. Yes, you can say that the painters and sculptors have accomplished a brilliant masterpiece, as the windows are considered one of the greatest examples of the craftsmanship of the 12th century. Two thirds of the glass are remarkably preserved in its original condition.
Also, the vaulted ceiling provides an excellent backdrop for the stained glass windows. There are also a number of splendid sculptures, such as the statues of Jesus' twelve apostles. One can see the detail that was painstakingly added to the sculptures – from their flowing clothes, to their hair and to their facial features.
At the back of the apse, you will find the holy relics collected by Saint Louis. Every year, these are displayed to the public only on one day – Good Friday.
La Sainte Chapelle also suffered a period of devastation, when its tympans and spire were damaged, the holy relics divided and sent to different places, the stalls, furniture and choir taken away. Fortunately, the chapel was restored into its preset beauty by architects Jean Baptiste Lassus, Felix Duban and Emile Boeswillwald, under the supervision of Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.
Visit La Saint Chapelle and you will surely understand why this is called a jewelry box.