La Sainte-Chapelle (French pronunciation: [la sɛ̃t ʃapɛl], The Holy
Chapel) is a Gothic chapel on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris,
France. It is often regarded as the high point of the Rayonnant period
of Gothic architecture. The Sainte Chapelle was sponsored by King Louis
IX of France. The date when building work started is unknown (some time
between 1239 and 1243) but the chapel was largely complete at the time
of its consecration on the 26th of April 1248.
Prior to dissolution of the Sainte-Chapelle in 1803, following the
French Revolution, the term "la Sainte-Chapelle royale" also referred
not only to the building but to the chapelle itself, the Sainte-Chapelle
The Sainte-Chapelle, the palatine chapel in the courtyard of what is
now known as La Conciergerie but was, at that time, the royal palace on
the Île de la Cité, was built to house precious relics: Christ's crown
of thorns, the Image of Edessa and thirty other relics of Christ that
had been in the possession of Louis IX since August 1239, when they
arrived from Venice in the hands of two Dominican friars. Unlike many
devout aristocrats who stole relics, the saintly Louis bought his
precious relics of the Passion, purchased from Baldwin II, the Latin
emperor at Constantinople, for the exorbitant sum of 135,000 livres.
This large amount was paid to the Venetians, to whom the relics had been
pawned. The entire chapel, by contrast, cost 40,000 livres to build and
until it was complete the relics were housed at chapels at the Château
de Vincennes and a specially built chapel at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
In 1241, a piece of the True Cross was added along with other relics.
Thus the building in Paris, consecrated 26 April 1248, was like a
precious reliquary: even the stonework was painted with medallions of
saints and martyrs in the quatrefoils of the dado arcade, which was hung
with rich textiles.
At the same time, it reveals Louis' political and cultural ambition,
with the imperial throne at Constantinople occupied by a mere Count of
Flanders and with the Holy Roman Empire in uneasy disarray, to be the
central monarch of western Christendom. Just as the Emperor could pass
privately from his palace into the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, so
now Louis could pass directly from his palace into the Sainte-Chapelle.
The royal chapel was a prime exemplar of the developing culminating
phase of Gothic architectural style called "Rayonnant" that achieved a
sense of weightlessness. Its architect is generally thought to have been
Pierre de Montereau. It stands squarely upon a lower chapel, which
served as parish church for all the inhabitants of the palace, which was
the seat of government (see "palace"). The king was later recognized as
a saint by the Catholic Church.
The most visually beautiful aspects of the chapel, considered the
best of their type in the world, are its stained glass, for which the
stonework is a delicate framework, and rose windows, added to the upper
chapel in the fifteenth century.
No designer-builder is directly mentioned in archives concerned with
the construction, but the name of Pierre de Montreuil, who had rebuilt
the apse of the Royal Abbey of Saint-Denis and completed the façade of
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is sometimes connected with the
The Parisian scholastic Jean de Jandun praised the building as one of
Paris's most beautiful structures in his "Tractatus de laudibus Parisius"
(1323), citing "that most beautiful of chapels, the chapel of the king,
most decently situated within the walls of the king's house, enjoys a
complete and indissoluble structure of the most solid stone. The most
excellent colors of the pictures, the precious gilding of the images,
the beautiful transparence of the ruddy windows on all sides, the most
beautiful cloths of the altars, the wondrous merits of the sanctuary,
the figures of the reliquaries externally adorned with dazzling gems,
bestow such a hyperbolic beauty on that house of prayer, that, in going
into it below, one understandably believes oneself, as if rapt to
heaven, to enter one of the best chambers of Paradise. O how salutary
prayers to the all-powerful God pour out in these oratories, when the
internal and spiritual purities of those praying correspond
proportionally with the external and physical elegance of the oratory! O
how peacefully to the most holy God the praises are sung in these
tabernacles, when the hearts of those singers are by the pleasing
pictures of the tabernacle analogically beautified with the virtues! O
how acceptable to the most glorious God appear the offerings on these
altars, when the life of those sacrificing shines in correspondence with
the gilded light of the altars!"
Much of the chapel as it appears today is a re-creation, although
nearly two-thirds of the windows are authentic. The chapel suffered its
most grievous destruction in the late eighteenth century during the
French Revolution, when the steeple and baldachin were removed, the
relics dispersed (though some survive as the "relics of Sainte-Chapelle"
at Notre Dame de Paris), and various reliquaries, including the grande
châsse, were melted down. The Sainte-Chapelle was requisitioned as an
archival depository in 1803. Two meters' worth of glass was removed to
facilitate working light and destroyed or put on the market. Its
well-documented restoration, completed under the direction of Eugène
Viollet-le-Duc in 1855, was regarded as exemplary by contemporaries and
is faithful to the original drawings and descriptions of the chapel that
The Sainte-Chapelle has been a national historic monument since 1862.
Glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris
Rouen Cathedral (French: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen) is a Roman
Catholic Gothic cathedral in Rouen, in northwestern France.
It is the seat of the Archbishop of Rouen and Normandy.
Claude Monet - Rouen Cathedral, 1894, Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France
Beauvais Cathedral (French: Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Beauvais) is an
incomplete cathedral located in Beauvais, in northern France. It is the
seat of the Bishop of Beauvais, Noyon and Senlis. It is, in some
respects, the most daring achievement of Gothic architecture, and
consists only of a transept (sixteenth-century) and choir, with apse and
seven polygonal apsidal chapels (thirteenth century), which are reached
by an ambulatory. The small Romanesque church of the tenth century,
known as the Basse Œuvre, much restored, still occupies the site
destined for the nave.
Work was begun in 1225 under count-bishop Miles de Nanteuil,
immediately after the third in a series of fires in the old
wooden-roofed basilica, which had reconsecrated its altar only three
years before the fire; the choir was completed in 1272, in two
campaigns, with an interval (1232–38) owing to a funding crisis provoked
by a struggle with Louis IX. The two campaigns are distinguishable by a
slight shift in the axis of the work and by what Stephen Murray
characterizes as "changes in stylistic handwriting." Under Bishop
Guillaume de Grez, an extra 4.9 m was added to the height, to make it
the highest-vaulted cathedral in Europe. The vaulting in the interior of
the choir reaches 48 m in height, far surpassing the concurrently
constructed Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Amiens, with its 42-m nave.
The work was interrupted in 1284 by the collapse of some of the vaulting
of the recently completed choir. This collapse is often seen as a
disaster that produced a failure of nerve among the French masons
working in Gothic style; modern historians have reservations about this
deterministic view. Stephen Murray notes that the collapse also "ushers
in the age of smaller structures associated with demographic decline,
the Hundred Years War, and of the thirteenth century."
However, large-scale Gothic design continued, and the choir was
rebuilt at the same height, albeit with more columns in the chevet and
choir, converting the vaulting from quadripartite vaulting to sexpartite
vaulting. The transept was built from 1500 to 1548. In 1573, the fall of
a too-ambitious 153-m central tower stopped work again. The tower would
have made the church the second highest structure in the world at the
time (after St. Olaf's church, Tallinn). Afterwards little structural
addition was made.
The choir has always been wholeheartedly admired: Eugène
Viollet-le-Duc called the Beauvais choir "the Parthenon of French
Its facades, especially that on the south, exhibit all the richness
of the late Gothic style. The carved wooden doors of both the north and
the south portals are masterpieces, respectively, of Gothic and
Renaissance workmanship. The church possesses an elaborate astronomical
clock in neo-Gothic taste (1866) and tapestries of the 15th and 17th
centuries, but its chief artistic treasures are stained glass windows of
the 13th, 14th, and 16th centuries, the most beautiful of them from the
hand of Renaissance artist Engrand Le Prince, a native of Beauvais. To
him also is due some of the stained glass in St-Etienne, the second
church of the town, and an interesting example of the transition stage
between the Gothic and the Renaissance styles.
During the Middle Ages, on January 14, the Feast of Asses was
annually celebrated in Beauvais cathedral, in commemoration of the
Flight into Egypt.
Beauvais Cathedral from the east
Since our account of medieval architecture is
mainly concerned with the development of style, we have until now
confined our attention to religious structures, the most ambitious as
well as the most representative efforts of the age. Secular building
reflects the same general trends, but these are often obscured by the
diversity of types, ranging from bridges and fortifications to royal
palaces, from barns to town halls. Moreover, social, economic, and
practical factors play a more important part here than in church design,
so that the useful life of the buildings is apt to be much briefer and
their chance of preservation correspondingly less. (Fortifications,
indeed, are often made obsolete by-even minor advances in the technology
of warfare.) As a consequence, our knowledge of secular structures of
the pre-Gothic Middle Ages remains extremely fragmentary, and most of
the surviving examples from Gothic times belong to the latter half of
the period. This fact, however, is not without significance.
Nonreligious architecture, both private and public, became far more
elaborate during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries than it had been
466. Court, House of Jacques Coeur,
The history of the Louvre in Paris provides a telling example. The
original building, erected about 1200,
followed the severely functional plan of the castles of
that time. It consisted mainly of a stout tower, the donjon or keep,
surrounded by a heavy wall. In the 1360s,
King Charles V had it built as a sumptuous royal residence. Although
this second Louvre, too, has now disappeared, we know what it looked
like from a fine miniature painted in the early fifteenth century (see
There is still a defensive outer wall, but the great structure behind
it has far more the character of a palace than of a fortress.
Symmetrically laid out around a square court, it provided comfortable
quarters for the royal family and household (note the countless
chimneys) as well as lavishly decorated halls for state occasions.
(Figure 538, another
miniature from the same manuscript, conveys a good impression of such a
If the exterior of the second Louvre still has some of the forbidding
qualities of a stronghold, the sides toward the court displayed a wealth
of architectural ornament and sculpture. The same contrast also appears
in the house of Jacques Coeur in Bourges, built in the 1440s. We speak
of it as a house, not a palace, only because Jacques Coeur was a
silversmith and merchant, rather than a nobleman. Since he also was one
of the richest men of his day, he could well afford an establishment
obviously modeled on the mansions of the aristocracy. The courtyard
(fig. 466), with its
high-pitched roofs, its pinnacles and decorative carvings, suggests the
picturesque qualities familiar to us from Flamboyant church architecture
(fig. 465). That we should
find an echo of the Louvre court in a merchant's residence is striking
proof of the importance attained by the urban middle class during the
later Middle Ages.