Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sainte Chapelle




The Sainte Chapelle ("Holy Chapel"), located within the Palais de Justice complex on the Ile de la Cité in the center of Paris, is a diminutive yet perfect example of the Rayonnant Style of Gothic architecture. Sainte Chapelle was founded by the ultra-devout King Louis IX of France, who constructed it as a chapel for the royal palace and to house precious relics.








The palace itself has otherwise utterly disappeared, leaving the Sainte Chapelle all but surrounded by the Palais de Justice. Despite its small and humble exterior above the Palais de Justice buildings, Sainte Chapelle is among the high points of French High Gothic architecture. The interior gives a a strong sense of fragile beauty, created by reducing the structural supports to a bare minimum to make way for huge expanse of exquisite stained glass.




The result is a feeling of being enveloped in light and color. Sainte Chapelle stands squarely upon a lower chapel which served as parish church for all the inhabitants of the palace. This chapel, which is rather plain, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. A souvenir stand often occupies most of the chapel today.







The most visually beautiful aspects of the chapel, and considered the best of their type in the world, are its 6,458 square feet of stained glass windows of the upper chapel, surrounded by delicate painted stonework. The windows are in deep reds and blues and illustrate 1,130 figures from the Bible. The rose windows added to the upper chapel in the 15th century.










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