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Sainte-Chapelle

THE REPOSITORY OF GOTHIC ART

Louis IX, a king whose devotion to Christianity was matched by the measures he took to celebrate it, ruled France in the first half of the XIII century. The greatest of these measures to survive to modern times is Sainte-Chapelle, one of the most refined examples of Gothic architecture ever built.

All of his life Louis was involved in an assiduous search for Christian relics; and when he came into possession of a crown of thorns believed to be that worn by Jesus as he approached Golgotha, he decided to build a place worthy of housing it.

The construction of Sainte-Chapelle thus began in 1241. The site chosen was the Île de la Cité, the river island in the heart of Paris which was also the location of Notre-Dame and the Palais de la Cité, the residence of the kings of France from the X to the XIV centuries.

The building has two floors: a lower chapel for the people, and an upper one for the royal family. The relics were kept in the latter, and here one may find some of the most important examples of stained glass in the world.

Its walls consist almost entirely of XIII-century stained glass, and it is this which is Sainte-Chapelle’s distinctive feature.

Each window is 15 metres high and depicts, by means of 1,113 hand-painted scenes, various episodes from both Old and New Testaments.

The official archives are silent but tradition has it that the work was done by Pierre de Montreuil, who was also responsible for completing the facade of Notre-Dame.

Unfortunately, during the French Revolution Sainte-Chapelle was deconsecrated and deprived of its relics, which are now kept in Notre-Dame.

Following the great contribution made to the Church Louis IX was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297.