How lovely to be in Paris on a balmy late spring morning,
especially if you are going, as we were, to see one of the loveliest churches in
the world – Sainte Chapelle (Holy Chapel).
As the River Seine flows through central Paris, it surrounds two
islands which are linked by a small footbridge. The Parisii, who founded Paris
in the 1stcentury, lived here. Two magnificent churches, Notre-Dame
and Sainte Chapelle, are on the Ile de la
When John and I went there, I was glad I had studied a map
because the entrance was tucked away at the back.
I hope to see it again if I can manage the narrow spiral staircase that
winds up to the upper chapel for there are two sanctuaries in Sainte Chapelle.
(There is limited disabled access). The lower chapel, dedicated to the Virgin
Mary, was for the King’s staff, while the upper chapel, which could be reached
directly from the palace, was for the King. This is the sanctuary you mustn’t miss.
(The palace no longer exists). http://www.sainte-chapelle.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/
King Louis IX of France, a devout Christian, built Sainte
Chapelle to house what he believed was Christ’s crown of thorns and other relics
associated with our Lord. The crown of thorns cost the saintly King three times
what he paid to build this exquisite church.
This High Gothic Chapel, consecrated in 1248 is long (36m), and
narrow (17m) and very high (42.5m). It’s breathtakingly beautiful!
Its walls are almost entirely stained glass in vibrant colours with
shades of red and blue predominating – absolutely magnificent with light shining
through them. The two sides of the single nave have 15 stained glass windows, 14
of which illustrate stories from the Old Testament, John the Baptist and Jesus’
childhood. The 15th window tells the history of the relics. There are
altogether 1113 scenes depicted in roundels and the stories should be read from
left to right and from bottom to top.
The rose windows portray Christ: his Passion at the eastern end,
and his glorious return as Judge of the living and dead, at the western
I sat and stared and stared. I could only praise God for the
devotion and dedication of King Louis and the countless artisans who had
laboured to build such a sanctuary for his glory. It is a witness that has stood
through centuries and I pray that future generations will preserve it. (It is now a national
Afterwards we saw the lower chapel.
It seemed cramped after the soaring beauty of the other.
Nevertheless, it is beautiful with its low vaulted ceiling and red and
Outside John and I came down to earth with a bump and thought of
lunch. I would like to have suggested that you visit the huge nearby store,
Samaritaine as we did in 2004. Unfortunately it’s been sold and a new
development is scheduled to open there in 2013. So for me it will be a memory I
wrote about in A CHRISTIAN IN LONDON AND PARIS called
But never fear!
You won’t starve! There’s a
multitude of eating places nearby on the Left Bank to suit every taste and
pocket. Cross the Seine to the Left Bank on to Place St Michel. On your left is
the Latin Quarter and on your right St-Germain-des-Pres, two historic and very
If you do visit Paris and see Sainte Chapelle, you’ll treasure
the memory forever.