The Sainte Chapelle is a most ostentatious cathedral in Paris and is considered one of the greatest architectural triumphs of the western world. Primarily undertaken by King Louis IX (later dubbed Saint Louis for his piety), construction began in 1242 and was completed six years later.
Originally made to house the relics of Christ’s Passion (such as the Crown of Thorns, purchased from Emperor Baudoin II of Byzantium for the then-outrageous sum of 135,000 pounds - the cathedral itself cost a ‘mere’ 40,000), it has fifteen separate stained glass windows which depict over one thousand religious scenes from both Old and New Testaments. The interior is, understandably, lavish beyond description. Adjacent to dividing columns are statues of the Apostles, the most important sculptural work in the Upper Chapel.
The Lower Chapel is devoted to the Virgin Mary, of whom a full size statue sits on the doorway’s central pier. Columns bearing the fleur-de-lys insignia support a low ceiling painted with a starry motif. Many funerary slabs (of past treasurers and canons) are inset into the floor.
The most distinctive features of the building are the Rose Window (over 1968 square metres of glass, two thirds of which is original and a pristine example of twelfth century glass work), the aforementioned Apostle statues (medieval wood carving), the Window of Christ’s Passion (portraying the last supper) and the Window of the Relics (portraying the journey of the True Cross and crucifixion nails to Sainte Chapelle).
The construction of the Sainte Chapelle formed strong ties between France and Rome, placing France at the forefront of the Pope’s favours.