The Ile de la Cite became the very heart of French power from its original occupation by Gallic tribes in the 1st century to the establishment of the palace of the first king of France, Clovis, in the 6th century.
Sainte Chapelle was built between 1242 and 1248 as a complex of two chapels, one above the other, by Louis IX to act as a reliquary for objects from the Passion of Christ, most notably the Crown of Thorns that was acquired by the king in 1239 from the Emperor of Constantinople. The relics were displayed in the upper chapel to which only the king and his close friends and family had access, and the lower chapel was used as a place of worship by the palace staff.
The design is in the shape of a very simple basilica - a long, narrow rectangle with a semi circular apse at one end. Entering the lower space you are absorbed by the warm glow of its colour - reds, blues and golds predominate - and the richness of its decoration. A 13th century fresco of the Annunciation graces one wall and the twelve apostles are depicted in medallion portraits. The struts of the vault gleam gold against the azure "sky", ornamented with "stars" of fleur de lys.
The lower chapel
But it is the upper chapel, reached by a narrow turret of winding steps, that takes your breath away in a heart stopping display of sixteen shimmering windows of sky scraping glass as you emerge into a blaze of light and colour! Depicting the chapters of the Bible from Genesis to Christ's resurrection in 1, 113 scenes the effect is mesmerising, a story best told in pictures.
Views of the upper chapel including the western rose that illustrates the Apocalypse of St. John