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Sainte-Chapelle is a medieval Gothic chapel located near the Palais de la Cite. It was begun in 1239 and consecrated in 1248. It was commissioned by Louis XI, originally intended to house his collection of Passion relics, including the alleged crown of thorns, which may explain its location in the courtyard of the former royal palace. Louis was later made a saint, so it seems that his efforts paid off! The chapel was heavily damaged during the Revolution, but restorations commenced almost immediately upon stabilization in France, in the mid-nineteenth century. The steeple and baldachin were removed during the melee, however, and regrettably, many of the relics were dispersed or destroyed. Some survive as the relics of Sainte-Chapelle, now housed in the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, but many, including the grande chasse, the silver chest built to hold them, were melted down. Restorations were faithful to the original drawings and surviving descriptions, however. The chapel has also been undergoing renovations in the modern day (since the 1970s!) to repair damage caused by air pollution and exposure to the elements, and it's hoped that the project will be completed before the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Louis.

Louis IX built the structure to house a collection of relics, which arrived in France in 1239. After some maneuvering, Louis purchased them from the emperor at Constantinople who had pawned them to rulers in Venice; they were thus transported from Venice to France by Dominican friars and were subsequently stored in an enormous silver chest specifically made for the purpose, which cost nearly as much as the relics themselves. The chapel consists of two stories: the lower chapel, which is only slightly less ornate then the one above, and the more famous upper chapel, where the stained glass panels are located. It's a preeminent example of a Gothic architectural style known as Rayonnant, characterized by a light, airy appearance and a vertical orientation. Curiously, considering its fame, no designer is named; despite the fact that modern scholars still debate who was ultimately responsible for its design, it seems that the individual's name is lost to history. The lower chapel served as the parish church for palace inhabitants. Features of the interior include a Parisian palatine chapel, which was built to house a reliquary. Surprisingly, analysis of paint fragments indicate that the original 13th-century colors were much brighter than those used by restorers; the originals would have been similar to the stained glass, which would have made the upper chapel interior almost overwhelming. There were scenes of the lives of saints and martyrs and textiles. There are also twelve life-size stone sculptures representing the Apostles. The ones now on display here are replicas, as the damaged originals are now in the Musee du Moyen Age.

The most famous feature, the glass, is nothing short of miraculous. Fifteen massive windows grace the nave and apse, with an additional rose window, which was added in about 1490, now set into the western wall. It's estimated that more than two-thirds of the glass is original. The main panels illustrate various biblical scenes, including the Passion of the Christ, the life of John the Evangelist, Old Testament exemplars, most prominently kings and queens, probably referencing the French royals, scenes from the Book of Genesis (which has been heavily restored), and many others. The final window in the south wall features scenes of the rediscovery of Christs's relics and the relocation to Paris. Some of the panels appear elsewhere, including at the Cluny Medieval Art museum, as about six feet of them were put up for sale during renovations, reportedly to increase lighting and to improve working conditions; it seems a very poor trade, indeed! The magnificence of this structure was noted even in its own day. Jean de Jandun described the chapel as one of the most beautiful buildings in Paris, in his Tractatus de Laudibus Parisius. It's been a historical monument since 1862.

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Photo Information
  • Copyright: Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 92 W: 78 N: 1265] (2180)
  • Genre: Luoghi
  • Medium: Colore
  • Date Taken: 2013-11-00
  • Versione Foto: Versione Originale
  • Date Submitted: 2020-05-09 13:55
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Additional Photos by Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 92 W: 78 N: 1265] (2180)
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