Saturday morning, I found myself in need of some inspiration.
One of E’s colleagues told me that La Sainte Chapelle was her favorite place in Paris. I had never been. So off to ile de la cite I went in search of some inspiration at The Holy Chapel.
This cathedral is overshadowed by the more famous, popular, and larger cathedral on ile de la cite–Notre Dame. However, La Sainte Chapelle is glorious in its own right.
It was built between 1242 and 1248 to house relics from the Passion of the Christ (allegedly, the crown of thorns and an actual piece of the cross itself). Unlike many of the other precious things acquired by the Catholic church (France) at this time, these relics were actually paid for and not stolen. Of course, you could logically argue that they only had the money because of other stolen art/artifacts. The amount paid for the relics greatly exceedeed the amount paid for the entire cathedral.
The cathedral is one of the best representations of the gothic period. It is considered the “high point” of the rayonnante period of Gothic architecture. I felt the weightlessnss that is characteristic of this period while in the lower chapel. The cathedral is best known for its stain glass windows on the upper level. However, they are undergoing renovation until 2013. So if you want to experience this cathedral in its full glory, you should probably visit after the renovation project ends.
The cathedral was greatly damaged during the French Revolution. The steeple and baldachin were removed and the relics were “dispersed.” Other things inside the chapel were melted down. Though most of the chapel today is a “re-creation,” 2/3 of the windows are authentic.
The stain glass windows in the upper chapel completely envelope the space. The windows were how the stories in the bible were shared with people, as there were not many bibles because the printing press had not yet been invented. Furthermore, few people were literate. There are over 1100 stories shared on the stain glass windows in this cathedral. The windows should be read from left to right, bottom to top.