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Sainte Chapelle

Monday, 23 July 2001

Sainte Chapelle was built very rapidly in the early 13th century to provide an appropriate sanctuary for the crown of thorns, which the French king had purchased for an absolute fortune from the Byzantine emperor (who understood something of the law of supply and demand). It is a marvel of gothic architecture, impressively vaulted ceiling and totally surrounded with bright and colorful stained glass windows that stretch nearly from floor to ceiling. It took about 30 years to complete the building, as compared to the 200 years or so that Notre Dame—just a stone's throw away—required. Because of the much more modest proportions of this church, there was no need for flying buttresses to keep the walls from falling out.

It seems absolutely incredible to me but apparently the cost of the crown was three times greater than that of the entire building.

The boys were keen to see the crown of thorns, but a quick read through the pamphlet that came free with the price of admission informed us that the holy relics housed in Sainte Chapelle were scattered during the French Revolution. Those that have been recovered are now housed in Notre Dame de Paris. Whether the crown is there, I don't know. Happily, Sainte Chapelle was not destroyed during the Revolution, although I suspect that most (all?) of the windows have been redone in more modern times.

Before climbing down from the impressive upper floor, we took a moment to admire the carvings that tell tales from the Old Testament. If I'm not mistaken, God is creating the world in these particular panels.

Time for lunch

This page was last modified on Mon, Aug 6, 2001.