While Notre Dame Cathedral is Paris’ most famous church, visiting Sainte-Chapelle is a must-do while in the French capital. We “discovered” it during one of our Paris stays, and when I say “discovered,” it’s simply because the former church is usually not on any of the top 5 Paris things to do, but it should, in our humble opinion. Since the fire that destroyed the roof of Notre Dame, though, la Sainte-Chapelle has seen an increase in interest.
Do you wonder what the fuss is about? Find out why we loved our visit to La Sainte-Chapelle church.
La Sainte Chapelle Paris Royal Church
The Sainte-Chapelle is a royal church where the Kings of France lived until the 14th century. One of the finest examples of Gothic architecture, the 13th-century chapel located on the Ile de la Cite in the heart of Paris, was built to host some of the most important Christian relics – Christ’s Crown of Thorns.
Sainte Chapelle Exterior
The relative simplicity of the Sainte Chapelle exterior, with its tall spire and tall facade, and large windows, should not deter you but is one of the reasons why the Sainte Chapelle was sometimes overlooked as a top Paris must-see attraction. At least until Notre Dame de Paris burnt, which redirected visitors’ attention to other incredible churches.
So the exterior of the Sainte Chapelle was impressive of course, thanks to its Gothic architecture, the scary gargoyles, and the detailed design of that particular style. But the exterior aspect did not prepare us for the unexpected aspect of the chapel interior.
Sainte Chapelle Interior
Inside the Sainte Chapelle plan divides the monument into a lower level and an upper level. The lower level was designed for the people working at the royal palace, whereas the upper level was reserved for the king and the royal family, as well as the relics the Holy Chapel was built to protect.
As we entered the chapel, the different arches covered by the repetitive fleur de lys, the iconic royal symbol of the French royalty, set the tone of the incredible and colorful design.
What makes the Sainte Chapelle interior such a hidden gem are its stunning stained glass windows of the upper level. Indeed, la Sainte Chapelle windows cover entire walls featuring colorful art and glass, allowing light to come through and illuminate scenes depicting saints and religious events from the Old and New Testaments. No wonder the Sainte Chapelle church is considered home to the world’s most significant 13th-century stained glass display, with over 1,000 stained glass windows.
Of particular importance is the upper chapel west flamboyant rose window. The 15th-century Sainte Chapelle rose window is composed of thousands of tiny glass pieces, where the blue, red, and green hues change with the lights and sun rays. The Sainte Chapelle plan is a masterpiece of construction, with no walls in the upper chapel section but buttresses and pillars to hold it, allowing light to fill the open space.
It’s hard to describe the awe we felt, standing in the center of the Sainte Chapelle. The sheer size of the windows, the details of the stained glass, the mix of red and blue colors, and the overall extensive coverage of the paintings are simply overwhelming. And it came as a surprise as we were not expecting such a magnificent interior design.
Even the floors have impressive ceramic tiles, with different designs and patterns. So while you might spend time admiring the upper-level stained glass windows, don’t forget to look at your feet to check the flooring display as well.
Check these la Sainte Chapelle photos for a close-up of some of the stained glass Sainte Chapelle characteristics:
Sainte Chapelle Relics
In addition to Christ’s Crown of Thorns, which would have been on Christ during the Passion, a small piece of the true cross was found in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) by the Crusaders in the early 13th century. A reliquary was specially made to display the relics, which later on even included a part of Louis’ skull after he was declared a saint and is known today as Saint Louis or Louis the Saint.
During the French Revolution, some relics were lost, but many survived and moved to Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, though these were taken to the Louvre Museum after the fire of Notre Dame Cathedral in 2019.
Book Your Sainte Chapelle Tickets
With the Notre Dame fire, the visit to Sainte Chapelle increased, and we recommend making your Sainte Chapelle reservation before your visit. You can order your tickets for Sainte Chapelle here.
The Sainte-Chapelle being within the Palace of Justice, there is a security perimeter from Monday to Friday. Therefore, you must reserve your ticket and a specific time before entering the Ste Chapelle.
Sainte Chapelled Organized Tours
While you can simply book your skip-the-line tickets, consider a combined tour of Sainte Chapelle visit with another Paris attraction.
Sainte Chapelle Events
Different musical events occur within the walls of the former Royal church, including popular Sainte Chapelle concerts such as Christmas and New Year Concerts and over 100 classical performances throughout the year. Attending a Sainte Chapelle concert is an incredible experience.
La Sainte Chapelle Facts
- When was the Sainte Chapelle built? The construction started in 1238, with the consecration in 1248
- Who built Sainte Chapelle? King Louis IX of France commissioned the royal monument.
- The chapel stands on the Île de la Cité, an island on the River Seine and the seat of Medieval France.
- There are 1,113 stained glass windows!
- The Ste Chapelle stopped being a church after the French Revolution and is now a National Monument.
- Sainte Chapelle hours vary from season to season.
- April 1st to September 30th: 9 am to 7 am
- October 1st to March 31st: 9 am to 5 pm
- Closed on some days, including May 1st, December 25th, and January 1st
Have you been to la Sainte Chapelle? What did you think of it?
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