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.