The interior of Sainte-Chapelle, a chapel built by Louis IX to house Christian relics.

Although I had visited Paris many years before, there were a number of sites that were on my short list to see again or for the first time. Sainte-Chapelle was a site that I didn’t even know about when I visited thirty years ago.

Without rehashing its entire history, Sainte-Chapelle was built by Louis IX to house relics of the cross that he purchased in the 1200s. In addition to its use as a place of worship for his court, Louis had a passageway built between his residence and the chapel making it his personal sanctuary as well.

The beauty of the stained glass is truly befitting a monarch. It is said to be – and I concur – the most beautiful stained glass in Europe. The chapel holds no furniture so the focal point is clearly the stained glass.

The chapel is also relatively small. No more than a couple of hundred people can fit into the space comfortably. Fortunately, people were appropriately quiet and respectful while we were in the room. They spoke in hushed whispers as they craned their necks to take in the splendor of the architecture. Because of the relative quiet, it was easy to overhear the comments of others. My favorite exercise of the late afternoon was to hang out in the back of the room and wait for people to emerge from the cramped spiral staircase into the relative enormity of Sainte-Chapelle. People had to crouch to avoid hitting their heads on the curve of the stairwell and look down to make sure their feet made solid contact with the small stair steps. Inevitably, people looked up from their crouched posture as they entered the chapel and all made the same type of exclamation, “Oh!”, “Oh my!”, “Wow!”, or something similar. The architecture really is that beautiful. I definitely will be back the next time I am in Paris. Enjoy.


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