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Sainte Chapelle

The Sainte-Chapelle (fr. Sɛ̃t ʃapɛl , Holy Chapel ) is the former palace chapel of the former royal residence Palais de la Cité on the Île de la Cité in Paris ( 1st arrondissement ).

Built from around 1244 to 1248 (consecration), it is an example of the high Gothic style of the mid-13th century. Its construction arose from the need to donate a Gothic-style replica of the so-called “Holy Chapel” ( Pharos Palace Chapel ) in Paris in the Great Palace of the Byzantine capital Constantinople, from which the Passion relics were acquired after the fourth crusade were.


The interior with the restored painting
Window of the Sainte-Chapelle
Upper chapel ceiling
Ceiling of the lower chapel

The chapel was built between (at the latest) 1244 and 1248 (consecration) by order of King Louis IX. of the saint to contain the precious Passion relics (“Christ's Crown of Thorns ” and parts of the “ True Cross ”) and the tip of the Holy Lance , which were kept in the Pharos Chapel in the Great Palace in Constantinople. The king bought it from the Latin emperor Baldwin II in 1237 for an astronomical sum. On April 26, 1248 the chapel was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pierre de Montreuil is mentioned as a possible architect, among others ; but no clarity could be gained here.

It is a two-story palace chapel with a low lower chapel and a high upper chapel. This was the repository of the relics and was closed to the common people. Most of its walls are taken up by precious stained glass windows, so that the high room is flooded with unearthly light.

Here it can also be demonstrated that the high Gothic tendency to dissolve the former stone room into a colored glass shrine and to transform the walls almost completely into multi-lane tracery windows does not lead to the interior becoming significantly lighter. Instead, the moving effect of the colored light, the luminous wall, was the goal, the merging of earthly existence in a mystical color space.

The window lancets are 12 meters high. The windows extend over an area of ​​600 m², two thirds of them date from the 13th century and a third are renovations from the 19th century.

After a fire in 1630, the chapel was restored. After it was badly damaged during the French Revolution , and a large part of the relics was destroyed by revolutionaries in 1793, a sign hung on it for years with the text “National property for sale”. In 1790 it was supposed to be torn down, which could be prevented, and the building was later renovated under the citizen king Louis Philippe. Allegedly, 720 of the total of 1134 window fields are still original. In some places in front of the pillars there are consoles on which statues of the 12 apostles are placed, which have also been restored to their original colors. It is the result of a thorough and for the time daring restoration in the 1840s and 50s. Part of the life-size apostle figures on the walls, the altar canopy, around a third of the glass windows, the decorations on the inside of the westwork, the roof turrets, the figures of the entrance portals and the gallery in the entrance area have been reconstructed. Nevertheless, the particularity of this room cannot be emphasized clearly enough in terms of its overall color effect.

This restoration represents a turning point in the public perception of medieval church interiors, because up until then people were used to rather simple, white-painted rooms. Different colors were now used, causing public outrage.


Palace chapels of this type were built in the later Middle Ages at other residences of the French royal family and its subsidiary lines in the duchies. They are only called Saintes-Chapelles if they were furnished with Passion relics and followed a certain liturgy. These include the chapels in Vincennes , Riom, Châteaudun, Aigueperse, Champigny-sur-Veude and Vic-le-Comte. The Saintes-Chapelles of Gué-de-Maulny, Vivier-en-Brie, Bourbon-l'Archambault and Bourges have disappeared. There is a very similar chapel in the Saint-Germain-en-Laye castle ( Yvelines department ). The palace chapel in Versailles is seen as a baroque variation on the Sainte-Chapelle. The Gothic palace chapels in Aachen and Prague are the successors to the Sainte-Chapelle outside France.

The Sainte-Chapelle Gospel Book , one of the most important manuscripts of Ottonian book illumination , also comes from the inventory of the Sainte-Chapelle . The splendid manuscript made by the Gregor Master found its way into the Bibliothèque nationale de France (signature Lat. 8851) after the revolution .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Henry Maguire : Byzantine court culture from 829 to 1204 . Dumbarton Oaks 2004, ISBN 978-0-88402-308-1 , pp. 56-57; Alexei Lidov : A Byzantine Jerusalem. The Imperial Pharos Chapel as the Holy Sepulcher . In: Annette Hoffmann, Gerhard Wolf (ed.): Jerusalem as narrative space -Erzählraum Jerusalem (= Visualizing the Middle Ages Vol. 6). Brill, Leiden-Boston 2012, pp. 63-103, here p. 82 ( digitized version ).
  2. Alexei Lidov 2012, p. 82.
  3. Alexei Lidov 2012, p. 82.
  4. The picture Samson's fight with the lion (Musée Cluny Paris) is now in the Musée national du Moyen Age.
  5. see The color in medieval churches in the article "Gothic".
  6. ^ Claudine Billot: Les Saintes-Chapelles royales et princières . Paris 1998, ISBN 2-85822-247-9 .
  7. Ruth Wessel: The Sainte-Chapelle in France. Genesis, function and change of a new type of space . Dissertation Düsseldorf 2003.


  • Meredith Cohen: The Sainte-Chapelle and the construction of sacral monarchy royal architecture in thirteenth-century Paris , New York 2015 (fundamental).
  • Camilla Cavicchi: Origin and Dissemination of Images of the Saint Chapel . In: Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography . 44, No. 1–2, 2019, ISSN  1522-7464 , pp. 57-77.
  • Julia Droste-Hennings, Thorsten Droste : Paris . DuMont, Cologne 2003, ISBN 3-7701-6090-8 , pp. 109–116.
  • Louis Grodecki : Sainte-Chapelle . Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques et des Sites, Paris 1975.
  • Robert Branner : St. Louis and the court style in gothic architecture, 1965 (revised in part by later research).
  • Denise Jalabert: La Sainte Chapelle . Nefs et clochers, Les Éditions du Cerf, Paris 1960.
  • Dieter Kimpel , Robert Suckale : The Gothic architecture in France 1130-1270 . Hirmer Verlag , Munich 1985, ISBN 3-7774-4040-X , pp. 400-405.
  • Ruth Wessel: The Sainte-Chapelle in France. Genesis, function and change of a new type of space . Dissertation Düsseldorf 2003 ( digitized version ).

Web links

Commons : Sainte-Chapelle (Paris)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 48 ° 51 ′ 20 "  N , 2 ° 20 ′ 41"  E