Have you ever been to a place and were so surprised by its beauty that your mouth literally fell open? Were rendered speechless? This is exactly what happened to me while visiting Sainte Chapelle in Paris.
In hindsight I wondered how could I have overlooked such a wondrous place? After all I do pride myself on being a knowledgable traveler. With almost unlimited information available it’s hard to believe I had never heard of these places, which played such important roles in French history, Sainte Chapelle and the Palace of Justice. That said, I’m giving myself a break because while I do
appreciate love my expansive collection of guide books, I also think that an important part of being a good traveler is the ability to wing it, go with the flow and embrace the unexpected.
So, it was while we were doing just that, winging it on our last day in Paris, that we decided, as we happened to be walking by, to enter the Palace of Justice. The ticket clerk asked if we also wanted to see Sainte Chapelle … sure, “why not?” we said, completely clueless.
Noticing the items for sale at the souvenir counter had photos of what looked to be a lovely, but obviously different place. I decided to enquire, “This is lovely, but is there more?” I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it amounted to: Yes, just over there through that tiny hardly noticeable nondescript door over in the corner .
As I emerged from the doorway into the main part of the chapel my mouth literally fell open. I was completely surrounded by jaw dropping beauty. No photo can really do it justice. The Stained glass was shimmering in the sunlight, the golden paint on the ceilings was glowing, I know I gasped in surprise and delight! I couldn’t get enough, and even joked that a place this beautiful could actually get someone to convert!
Saint Chapelle, is showing her age and is currently undergoing a lengthy renovation, however in my opinion this faded splendor, as I like to call it, only added to her charm.
The Palace of Justice
Adjacent to the Sainte Chapelle and beautiful in its own right is the Palace of Justice. Once the Palais Ile de Cite, it was home to French royalty until the 1400s. Later it became a revolutionary prison, at which time Sainte Chapelle became a place of final confession and prayer for those condemned by the tribunal. One such person, was Marie Antoinette and there is a memorial to both her and Louis XVI in the Palace.
Tips and information:
- To skip the line at Sainte Chapelle purchase your tickets inside the Palace of Justice, which seemed to be less crowded.
- The medieval hall and exhibitions representing the revolutionary prison are fascinating and tied in perfectly with our recent trip to Versailles.
- There is a lot to see and learn here, but we were able to see everything in about an hour, which appealed to my little one.
- Sainte Chapelle was commissioned in 1238 by Louis IX to hold his collection of holy relics including Christ’s crown of thorns. The chapel sustained damage during the Revolution and the crown of thorns along with other surviving relics were moved to Notre Dame de Paris.
- Like Notre Dame, the chapel was restored by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.
- The impressive stained glass inside the chapel, of which 2/3 is original, tells the story of both the old and new testaments.
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