It’s arguably one of the most beautiful religious structures in the world, and in this post, we’ll take a closer look at some interesting facts about Sainte Chapelle, one of the most amazing tourist attractions in Paris.
1. It’s located within a medieval palace
The Sainte Chapelle is the chapel of the Palais de la Cité, located on the Île de la Cité, a river island in the River Seine in Paris, France.
This was the most important area in all of Paris during medieval times and even all the way back to Roman times after they conquered the “Parisii” in the first century B.C.
2. Sainte Chapelle is a royal chapel
The Palais de la Cité was the Royal residence of Kings of France all throughout the Middle Ages up until the 14th century, and the Sainte Chapelle is located right in the courtyard of this palace.
Even though the literal translation of “Sainte Chapelle” is “Holy Chapel,” this means that it was the royal chapel for the personal use of the Kings of France.
3. It took just 7 years to build it
The construction of the royal chapel, which consists of two floors, started somewhere in the year 1241 and it took only 7 years to complete. The chapel was officially consecrated on April 26, 1248.
That’s an amazing pace, don’t you think? After all, this was the 13th century and similar structures could take decades to complete, especially with such an eye for detail.
4. It was built to house King Louis IX’s holy relics
While it was definitely a custom to build a royal chapel near the royal palace, the main reason it was built was clearly defined.
King Louis IX had just acquired a large number of holy relics, including some of the most important relics in Christendom such as the Crown of Thorns, the Image of Edessa, and about 30 more items.
The Sainte Chapelle was built to hold this amazing collection of relics.
These eventually ended up being sold for various purposes, and some of them are still held at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns (it survived the 2019 fire).
5. It’s fair to assume the King was happy when the relics arrived
Forget about Amazon in the 13th century, didn’t exist. All you could do is send over your money to some dodgy medieval broker and hope your items would arrive.
After spending about 135,000 livres (the currency at the time) for the relics and 100,000 more for a vault to keep them in, who wouldn’t be happy if you see them arrive, right?
One of the most fun facts about the Sainte Chapelle is that the relics were carried by 2 Dominican friars who had walked all the way from Venice to deliver the order!
The last part of their journey was the best part because the King himself carried them while walking barefoot out of sheer joy!
6. Sainte Chapelle had an important political role as well
Just think about this for a minute. The King had just spent 235,000 livres to purchase and store a large number of holy relics. The construction of the Sainte Chapelle had only costed about 40,000 livres.
This was a huge amount!
Louis IX’s other motivation to both build the Chapel and buy the relics was to establish himself as the central monarch of western Christendom.
This way, Sainte Chapelle played a much more important role than any other royal chapel constructed in medieval Europe.
7. It’s constructed in a distinctive French Gothic architectural style
The style used is the prime example of the French Gothic “Rayonnant” style which as popular in France during this period.
This style was characterized by focusing on more elaborate decorations and searching for more spatial unity.
8. Every inch of Saint Chapelle’s interior is decorated
One of the most striking facts about the Sainte Chapelle is that every single inch of the interior walls and vault have been colored and decorated.
What makes this even more remarkable is that the colors used during the extensive renovation of the 19th century were much less bright than its original colors, which would have made the interior look even more astounding.
Just imagine the walls being the same bright colors as the stained glass windows! That must have been pretty amazing, right?
9. The most remarkable feature are the stained-glass windows
The most prominent feature of the Sainte Chapelle is without a doubt the 13th-century glass windows. About 2/3 of the current stained glass windows are original ones as well, making it the largest collection in the world!
There are a total of 15 large windows that depict a grand total of 1113 scenes of the Old and New Testaments and basically the entire history of the world until the arrival of the relics at the chapel.
You really can’t help but stand in awe the moment you witness this amazing collection of stained glass windows on the second floor of the Chapel!
10. The building was seriously damaged during the French Revolution
There isn’t much original about the Sainte Chapelle as it stands today, except for two-thirds of the stained glass windows. Much of the other decorations were stripped and destroyed during the French Revolution in the late 18th century.
Various relics that were still held at the Sainte Chapelle were melted down and sold as well, except for the few which are now held at the Notre-Dame Cathedral.
After the revolution, the Chapel was completely restored to its original design, and just about everything you see resembles how it was before, except for the fact that the chapel’s interior had much brighter colors in medieval times.
The restoration works were completed back in 1855. Since the 1970s, multiple other restoration projects have been completed to ensure the Chapel remains in the same state, forever.
The most recent one was a project in 2015 that cost 10 million € and which was just ready for the 800th anniversary of the birth of Louis IX, the man who commissioned the commission of this amazing landmark in Paris!