The stunningly beautiful Sainte-Chapelle, with its two stories of height, located inside the Palais de la Cité, on the Island of Paris, is a surprising architectural treasure. It is filled with symbols and history. We will share five interesting facts and tricks for you to discover this wonderful national French monument:
1. It was built to house the Crown of Thorns of Christ (and 22 other relics):
To gain its name of Sainte, this chapel had to be built to house relics. This is the case of this surprising chapel, commissioned by King Louis IX of France to keep Christ’s Crown of Thorns and also his collection of 21 other relics he had collected. The political reasoning of Saint Louis, who was a very pious king, was to make France the new Christian capital, competing with cities like Rome.
Check this out: Today no relics remain in the place. The Crown of Thorns (or what remains of it) and the Shirt of Saint Louis are now part of the Treasure of Our Lady of Paris (Notre-Dame de Paris). After the fire at Notre-Dame, the relics were moved to the Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois church, behind the Louvre Museum. They can be visited only the first Fridays of each month and every Friday during Lent at 3:00 p.m.
2. It has two chapels, upper and lower:
The lower chapel is the one that welcomes in visitors (along with the boutiques and gift shops) and seems to be almost like a vault at 23 ft (7 meters) high, held by multiple columns. To the left of the entrance you can find the stairs that will lead you to the upper chapel, where you can witness the play of light, colors, and architecture of this beautiful building.
Check this out: The columns in the upper chapel represent the twelve apostles, pillars of the church of Christ.
3. It counts with 1,113 stained glass windows that narrate episodes of the Bible:
Starting with Genesis to the Apocalypse. Even King Louis IX is represented in one of them. Suggestion: when you arrive, look for the informational cards that are available in several languages for visitors. This will help you better understand the stories behind the stained glass windows. Try to look at them from a distance to better appreciate them.
Check this out: the rosette in the back represents the Apocalypse and was renovated in 1490. During that time renovation meant “keeping up with trends”, therefore certain parts of the building weren’t actually being restored. They were updated to resemble the architectural trend of that time, which was Gothic Flamboyant (this meant flame shapes or fire), and not the original Gothic Rayonnant (referring to strong lines coming out of the center, creating rays of light) which you will likely see at Notre-Dame.
4. The best time to visit is the morning:
Try to get there early since this building, due to its diminutive size, fills up very quickly. Hopefully you get to see the sunlight through the stained glass windows brightening up the space. Imagine it is 1248 and the floor is white, which further reflected the colors of the windows creating an even more…heavenly atmosphere. The visit will take you 45 minutes to an hour. Because the monument is inside the Palace of Justice you will have to go through the corresponding security checks. A lot of people don´t get to see this monument because they get discouraged by the queues outside, remember that it is a small place, but if you get there early you will have no trouble, and it is very much worth the effort.
5. You can buy a bundled ticket to visit the Conciergerie as well:
A few feet away from the entrance to the Sainte Chapelle you will find the Conciergerie which preserves some of the ancient vestiges of the Palace de la Cité and medieval housing for the kings of France. During the French Revolution it served as prison (that is where Marie Antoinnete was held before being sent to the guillotine). Today it also functions as the Palace of Justice and has a building for the Correctional Police. Some wonder why they should pay to visit a church, but this is really a museum with the name of a church, since there is no religous worship inside.
Suggestion: when purchasing your ticket, think about if you’d like to also visit the Conciergerie. The regular ticket to visit the Sainte Chapelle costs 10€ and the Conciergerie costs 9€. If you buy the bundle you will pay 15€ for both (saving 4€).
This building, inspired by the vision of New Jerusalem, is part of our detailed guide Discover Paris in 4 Days which you can get here.
BONUS: You will likely leave through the Palace of Justice, through a big portal of black and golden gates. If that is the case, turn immediately to your left and walk to the corner so you can see the clock tower and in it in the first public clock in Paris. A jewel from 1370.
You can also read our article about the Top 5 churches in Paris.
8, boulevard du Palais
Metro Cité, Line 4
The schedule for the Sainte Chapelle are:
⦁ From January 2nd to March 31st: Open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 17:00 p.m.
⦁ From April 1st to September 30th: Open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 19:00 p.m.
⦁ From October 1st to December 31st: Open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 17:00 p.m
⦁ Last entrance: half an hour before closing time.