Paris Monument

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Paris Monument: The Sainte Chapelle.

Paris Monument

Located on the Ile-de-la-Cité, the building which now houses the Paris law courts as well as the Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie, was, from the Xth to the XIVth centuries, the residence and the seat of power of the French kings.

It was built in six years (1242-1248). It was above all a personal undertaking of Saint-Louis (King Louis IX). It was designed to house the relics of Christ’s Passion, especially the Crown of Thorns, the possession of which put France, in this flourishing XIIIth century, in the forefront of Latin Christendom. In 1239, Louis IX acquired this most precious relic of the Passion from Emperor Baudouin II. Two years later, further relics were brought from Byzantium. Two years later, further relics were brought from Byzantium. They were kept in one of the palace chapels, dedicated to Saint-Nicholas, until a worthier setting could be prepared.

The Sainte-Chapelle was consecrated in 1248. The upper chapel, for the king’s use and the display of the relics, was dedicated by the papal legate, the lower chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary by the Archbishop of Bourges.

During the French Revolution, the Sainte-Chapelle suffered badly: the choir stalls and the rood screen were destroyed, the spire torn down and the relics were dispersed.

Extensive restoration began in 1846, returning the Sainte-Chapelle to its former splendor.

The Lower Chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, a full-length statue of whom is on the central pier of the doorway.
Paris Monument: The Conciergerie.

The Conciergerie
Paris Monument

In the Upper Chapel, gothic architecture shows itself at its most sublime: light, color, and space join together in a conjunction of art and religion. Clearly, the architect, the sculptors and the painters lavished all their attention on the interior of the Upper Chapel, since this was to be the shrine of the most holy relics. The Holy Relics Saint-Louis had acquired, were contained in a large, magnificently decorated reliquary kept in the apse, to the faithful on Good Friday. During the French Revolution, they were dispersed. Some were lost, but others are kept in the treasury of Notre-Dame or in the Bibliothèque nationale.

The sainte-Chapelle owes its fame to its stained-glass windows: 6,458 sq. ft of glass, of which two thirds are original providing a full sampling of XIIIth century glass work. The lofty and elegant structure of the building seems to fade away, leaving only the windows in all their splendour, as they tell the biblical story of mankind from Creation to his Redemption through Christ.

Each window is divided into lancets which must be read from left to right, working from the bottom up. They were admirably restored in the XIXth century.

The Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie are today the only visible remains of the oldest palace of France’s kings.


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