Sainte-Chapelle in Paris: Pictures and Highlights to Look For

A Chapel Full of Light and Sumptuous Details

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    Western Rose Window and the Apocalypse of St. John

    The Western Rose Window at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris depicts the biblical Apocalypse of St John.
    ©2010 Courtney Traub.

    Built between 1242 and 1248, the Sainte-Chapelle is one of Europe's most outstanding examples of high gothic architecture, particularly noteworthy for its ethereal stained glass and elaborate rose windows.

    The upper chapel depicts a total of 1,113 biblical scenes across 15 delicate stained glass windows. Each painstakingly crafted panel tells an elaborate story, designed to educate visitors on Biblical thought. You can read more about why these are so extraordinary in our full visitor's guide to Sainte-Chapelle 

    In the image shown here, you can see the 15th-century Western Rose window above a painted scene depicting the tale of the Apocalypse as told in the biblical book of St. John.

    Scroll through our full gallery for more stunning images of the chapel. 

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    Cross-Section of Stained Glass at Sainte-Chapelle

    A cross-section of stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France.
    ©2010 Courtney Traub.

    This image shows a cross-section of the delicate stained glass that graces the interiors of Sainte-Chapelle. The Chapel was fully restored to its medieval glory by 19th-century French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. He was also heavily involved in efforts to restore the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral.

    When Viollet-le-Duc took up the restoration alongside a group of colleagues, the Chapel was in ill repair. It had been badly damaged during the French Revolution of 1789, which specifically targeted places of Christian importance and power. 

    It would take a little over 30 years to restore the Chapel. This involved meticulously replacing parts of the stained glass panels, taking care to preserve as much of the original glass as possible. It also meant painstakingly repainting the much-faded and tarnished decorative columns and walls. 

    What you see today is, in short, the result of several restorers working around the clock for three decades to give us a living sense of what the Chapel looked like when it was first unveiled in Paris during the Middle Ages. 

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    Apostle Pillar at Sainte-Chapelle

    One of 12 Apostles at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France.
    ©2010 Courtney Traub.

    The picture shown here depicts one of the 12 statues at Sainte-Chapelle representing the biblical 12 Apostles, symbolically displayed on the nave in the upper-chapel.

    Six out of 12 of these are originals; the remaining statues were re-created as part of 19th-century restoration efforts by Viollet-le-Duc

     

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    Detail of Angel at Sainte-Chapelle

    Detail of angel wall sculpture at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
    ©2010 Courtney Traub.

    This shot shows the detail of an angel figure at the Sainte-Chapelle. Every available surface in the sumptuous chapel is decorated and used for biblical storytelling. You could even say that the entire Chapel functions as a kind of visual narrative or story-- but it's one you may need some help understanding it. 

    When visiting, we recommend spending at least an hour observing and appreciating these fine details. Have a reliable guide at hand to decrypt these-- whether a person or a written account of the decorative and architectural elements at the chapel.

    You'll come away with a much richer understanding of what makes the chapel extraordinary, and a better appreciation of the literary and cultural history that abounds within its walls. 

     

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    Play of Golden Light at Sainte-Chapelle

    Stained glass and statuary at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France.
    ©2010 Courtney Traub.

    The interplay of soft light and shadows at Sainte-Chapelle produces a distinctly ethereal ambiance. The presence of yellow in the stained glass, candelabras and golden tones in the statuary, walls and ceilings create a warmer effect than many gothic places of worship. This surprises many visitors who have become accustomed to rather dark conditions in European cathedrals and churches. 

    One way to compare and contrast is to spend some time admiring the many elaborate decorative elements and stained glass at the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral, then head over to Sainte-Chapelle to note how these two important places of worship differ. 

    You'll notice the central role played by light at both, but its quality is quite different in each place. 

     

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    Intricate Column at Sainte-Chapelle

    Detail of a painted column at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
    ©2010 Courtney Traub.

    This detail of a column at Sainte-Chapelle demonstrates how intricately each available surface is decorated at the 13th century marvel of high gothic architecture.

    Unlike the strictly biblical decorative elements and images at the Chapel, this column appears to show a typical medieval castle and fortress, framed by a simple but visually stunning border.  

    To read more about how to make the most of your visit to Sainte-Chapelle and learn some interesting facts about the chapel ahead of your first visit, see our complete guide.