La Sainte-Chapelle or the Holy Chapel is a Roman Catholic chapel which is located in the Palais de Justice complex. The complex is located on the Ila de la Cite, right in the heart of Paris City. La Sainte-Chapelle is known as the only building from Capetian royal palace that survives as well as the highest pinnacle of Rayonnant period achievements. The Rayonnant period itself was famous as the period when Gothic architecture flourished.
History of La Sainte-Chapelle
The chapel was built during King Louis IX era in the 13th century and cost 40,000 livres to build. The construction started around 1239 and finished in 1248. The chapel was built by the order of the King himself to house his around thirty Christian relic collections. His collections include the Crown of Thorns and the Image of Edessa. Before the relics were stored in La Sainte-Chapelle, they were stored in Château de Vincennes and a chapel in Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. When La Sainte-Chapelle was completed, the relics were moved there with a big ceremony on April 26, 1248.
La Sainte-Chapelle was built according to Pieere de Montreuil’s design. De Montreuil was the architect whose works include the Royal Abbey of Saint-Denis and the south façade of Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Upper and Lower Chapel
The chapel is divided into two parts, the upper chapel and the lower chapel. The upper chapel serves as the royal chapel as well as the place where the relics were exhibited. The lower chapel serves as the palace’s parish which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary by the Archbishop of Bourges, Pierre Berruyer.
The upper chapel is a faithful representation of Gothic architecture. It is a perfect mix of art and religious beauty. The decoration was handled with greatest care since it was meant to host the King, his family, and his close friends. The decorations include statues of twelve apostles in a great serenity, vaulted ceilings, and magnificent stained-glass windows. The relics kept at the back of the apse at the summit of the open tribune were exhibited once a year every Good Friday.
The lower chapel was built in the honor of the Virgin Mary. Therefore, there is a statue of the Virgin Mary in the center of the portal. There are twelve medallions decorating the wall as the representations of the twelve Apostles.
Sainte-Chapelle underwent several restorations along the way due to various reasons. It was damaged by fire in 1630 and 1776. A flood stroke in return which caused the stained window to be removed in 1690. Sainte-Chapelle also underwent a significant damage during French Revolution when its stalls, choir wall, and furniture were disappeared and the relics scattered.
A huge restoration took place in 1837 under the supervision of Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc assisted by architects Felix Duban, Jean Baptiste Lassus, and Emile Boeswillwald. By 1868, the restoration was finally done. Unfortunately, some of the relics were gone forever without being able to be restored. Today, only two thirds of the windows are authentic.
In 1862, Sainte-Chapelle was officially listed as a Historic National Monument.
The exterior of La Sainte-Chapelle shows thick Rayonnant architechture. It is surmounted by pinnacles and has deep buttresses. The windows are vast and divided by bar tracery with the crocketted gables around the roof-line. The border between upper and lower chapel is also visible from outside where walls of lower chapel is decorated with small triangle-shaped windows.
The interior of Sainte-Chapelle is dominated with stained glass. There are also many decorations put on the wall of the chapel including hanging textiles and dado arcade. A group of 12 life-sized sculptures above the dado arcade represent the twelve Apostles.
Visiting La Sainte-Chapelle
The Holy Chapel is open from March 1st to October 31st at 9.30 am to 6 pm and from November 1st to February 28th at 9 am to 5 pm. The chapel also has evening opening during May 15th to September 15th until 9 pm. Please note that the chapel is close on January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th.
Adult rate : 8,50 €
Reduced rate : 5,50 €
Adult group rate : 6,50 € (minimum 20 persons)
School group rate : 30 € (maximum 35 students, 2 accompananying adults included, adult group rate for additional accompananying adult)
Free admission is applied for minors under 18, disabled visitors and their escorts, and unemployed persons. Citizens of 27 countries of EU and non-European of French permanent residents who are under 26 also get free admission into Sainte-Chapelle.
Please note that no metal object is permitted inside Sainte-Chapelle. Take metro line 4 or bus line 21, 27, 38, 85, and 96 to get to Sainte-Chapelle.