Sainte-Chapelle, former chapel in Paris. Forming part of the buildings of the Palais de Justice (once the royal palace) on the Île-de-la-Cité, it was built by Pierre de Montreuil (1243-46) for Louis IX (St. Louis) to enshrine the Crown of Thorns and other sacred relics brought back from the Crusades. It was admirably restored in the 19th cent. by J. B. Lassus and Viollet-le-Duc. Now a museum, the Sainte-Chapelle is one of the finest examples of medieval art. It consists of two chapels, one above the other, and a spire. A winding staircase leads from the painted and gilded lower chapel to the porch of the upper chapel. The elegant proportions and airiness of the upper chapel, its 15 magnificent stained-glass windows, separated only by thin colonnettes and reaching nearly from floor to ceiling, and its vividly painted columns and panels combine to create the effect of a sheer blaze of color and light. The Sainte-Chapelle is a superb example of the Rayonnant style in Gothic architecture.
La Sainte-Chapelle (The Holy Chapel) is a Gothic chapel on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France. It is perhaps the high point of the full tide of the rayonnante period of Gothic architecture.


The Sainte-Chapelle, the palatine chapel in the courtyard of the royal palace on the Île de la Cité, was built to house precious relics: Christ's crown of thorns, the Image of Edessa and thirty other relics of Christ that had been in the possession of Louis IX since August 1239, when it arrived from Venice in the hands of two Dominican friars. Unlike many devout aristocrats, who swiped relics, the saintly Louis bought his precious relics of the Passion, purchased from the Latin emperor at Constantinople, Baldwin II, for the exorbitant sum of 135,000 livres, which was paid to the Venetians, to whom it had been pawned. The entire chapel, by contrast, cost 40,000 livres to build. In 1241 a piece of the True Cross was added, and other relics. Thus the building, consecrated 26 April 1248, was like a precious reliquary: even the stonework was painted, with medallions of saints and martyrs in the quatrefoils of the dado arcade, which was hung with rich textiles.

At the same time, it reveals Louis' political and cultural ambition, with the imperial throne at Constantinople occupied by a mere Count of Flanders and with the Holy Roman Empire in uneasy disarray, to be the central monarch of western Christendom. Just as the Emperor could pass privately from his palace into Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, so now Louis could pass directly from his palace into the Sainte Chapelle.

The Royal chapel was a prime exemplar of the newly developing culminating phase of Gothic architectural style called "Rayonnant" that achieved a sense of weightlessness. It stands squarely upon a lower chapel which served as parish church for all the inhabitants of the palace, which was the seat of government (see "palace"). The king was later granted sainthood by the Catholic Church as Saint Louis.

The most visually beautiful aspects of the chapel, and considered the best of their type in the world, are its stained glass for which the stonework is a delicate framework, and rose windows added to the upper chapel in the 15th century.

No designer-builder is directly mentioned in archives concerned with the construction, but the name of Pierre de Montreuil, who had rebuilt the apse of the Royal Abbey of Saint-Denis and completed the façade of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is sometimes connected with the Sainte Chapelle.

Much of the chapel as it appears today is a recreation, although nearly two-thirds of the windows are authentic. The chapel suffered its most grievous destruction in the late eighteenth century, during the French Revolution, when the steeple and baldachin were removed, the relics dispersed, and various reliquaries, including the grande châsse, were melted down. The Sainte-Chapelle was requisitioned as an archival depository in 1803. Two meters' worth of glass was removed to facilitate working light, and destroyed or loosed upon the market. Its well-documented restoration, completed under the direction of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1855, was regarded as exemplary by contemporaries and is faithful to the original drawings and descriptions of the chapel that survive.

The Sainte Chapelle has been a national historic monument since 1862.

A replica of the Sainte Chapelle can be found in Chicago, Illinois. The St. James Chapelle of Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, located on 103 E. Chestnut St, was built in the early 1900s under the direction of George Cardinal Mundelein in founding the high school seminary.



See also

Saint-Germer-de-Fly Abbey: A very similar structure, also called the Sainte-Chapelle, was erected twelve years after the Paris chapel as an addition to the abbey church.


Further reading

  • F. Gebelin, La Sainte Chapelle et la Conciergerie (Paris) 1937.

External links

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