Paris: Visiting Sainte-Chapelle
you might enjoy Saint-chapelle if…
… you love awe-inspiring, historic churches, want to view some of the world’s most impressive and immense stained glass windows, and appreciate religious iconography.
why we decided to visit sainte-chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle was on my must-visit list since I learned about it in a college art history class. We were glad it was on our radar because we suspect this is an oft-overlooked stop for people visiting Paris with so many more well-known spots.
how to get to sainte-chapelle
Like Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle is on Île de la Cité, and they are only a 5-10 minute walk apart. The trickiest thing about visiting Sainte-Chapelle was that a street sign was turned the wrong way, so we walked several extra blocks in a circle trying to find it!
I think part of our problem is that we were looking for a church, but it is housed essentially in a courtyard of what is now the Palais de Justice facility. If you know you are looking for the Palais de Justice building, you should have a much easier time of it!
a (short) history of sainte-chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle is a royal chapel built in 1242, making it nearly 800 years old. Said another way, this Gothic-style chapel was 250 years old when Columbus sailed!
King Louis IX built the chapel in a mere seven years for the purpose of housing his religious relics. For anyone who has ever studied Christianity during the Middle Ages, you’ll have a good understanding of the important role relics played in the church…and how they were part of the church culture that ultimately drove the desire for change among some Christians and led to the Reformation centuries later.
What King Louis IX hoped to gain by building this cathedral - besides a really nice storage unit for relics, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns - was to further establish his political credibility in Europe. Believe it or not, the cost to Louis of purchasing the Crown of Thorns was higher than the price to build Sainte-Chapelle.
what to expect during your visit to sainte-chapelle
Visitors enter on the first floor, which at first seems impressive (though cozy) and houses a small gift shop, but the real awe-inspiring spot is upstairs in the upper-chapel. The original purpose of the lower chapel was for palace staff, and the upper one was for King Louis IX and his close family and advisers and is where the relics were housed.
The most magnificent feature is the ocean of stained glass stretching 45-feet tall and creating a tinted hue to the light of the chapel’s interior. Depicted in the stained glass imagery is the procession of Christianity’s origins, from the Book of Genesis through Christ’s Resurrection.
what we wish we knew before visiting sainte-chapelle
While there, we discovered that concerts are held at the chapel on a periodic basis from mid-March through December, and we had missed one the evening before, the only one being held during our visit. Listening to a live performance of classical music in such a venue would be a great experience, so I’d recommend you check their schedule out here before visiting.
cost to visit
As of this writing (Summer 2019), the entrance fee is 10 Euros. Or, do what we did and purchase the Paris Museum Pass (more info here), in which case this amazing site is included in your pass at no additional cost.