I’ll start by saying yes, I admit it. I kind of abandoned you. You the reader, you the anthropomorphized blog. I was going strong for a month or so there at the start of the year, feeling enthusiastic and creative. Then I got distracted by work and felt like I didn’t have anything new to say.
So, sorry about that. But here’s a new tale about an old place, the church of Sainte-Chapelle.
This place, you guys.
I’ve been twice, the first time more than 10 years ago on my high school “exchange” trip. And honestly, after two weeks in France and countless awe-inspiring sights seen, Sainte Chapelle was the one that really stuck in my mind years later. It truly is breathtaking.
I was excited to visit it again last year, when the parents came to town. As one of my favorite sites in all of Paris, I made sure that it was a priority on the to-do list of their trip.
Located practically across the street from the much more well known Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle is unassuming in comparison. A gothic chapel dating from the 13th century, the age alone is impressive. Inside it’s even more impressive, and interesting.
Then you go upstairs.
Up until this point, Sainte-Chapelle is beautiful and interesting, but not necessarily moreso than any other medieval church you may visit. But upstairs, you step out of the stairwell into this chamber that just glows with vibrant stained glass and stretches skyward in beautiful arches. It’s breathtaking and magical.
I could sit and stare and marvel at the stained glass in this place for hours. You have to wonder how on earth they could create something this magnificent in the 1200s. And it’s amazing that the chapel has been so well preserved and maintained over the course of it’s long history, surviving to gleam gold and glitter with blue and red and yellow well into the 21st century.
A Brief History of Sainte-Chapelle
In case you’re curious, here’s the Cliff’s Notes of the history. Located on Ile de la Cité, Sainte Chapelle was built as the royal chapel of Palais de la Cité, which was the royal palace residence of French kings at the time. Construction began in 1284, commissioned by Louis IX to hold his collection of Christian relics.
Approximately 2/3rds of the stained glass windows are original from the 13th century, despite the church suffering some damage during the French revolution. At this time, whole pieces of the chapel were damaged or removed, and the extensive collection of relics was looted. Sainte-Chapelle was restored in the early 1800s.
More than a decade after my first visit, and plenty of impressive, ancient churches and historical sites visited all over Europe, I still come back to this place as one of the most beautiful and unique I’ve ever seen.