January 2nd to March 31st : every day, from 9 am to 5 pm
April 1st to October 31st : every day, from 9 am to 6 pm
November 1st to December 31st : every day, from 9 am to 5 pm
The Sainte-Chapelle is closed on January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.
It is recommended that you visit in the morning.
No access between 1 pm and 2.15 pm from Monday to Friday.
Late opening on Wednesdays until 9.30 pm from mid-May to mid-September.
Notre-Dame Cathedral is world-famous and attracts visitors in considerable numbers, but the Sainte-Chapelle remains relatively little-known. It has a fascinating tale to tell, however, of the formidable passion and piety of a king, Louis IX, who was commonly known as Saint Louis due to his religious zeal. It was he who ordered the building of a chapel in the heart of his palace as he wished it to house his collection of Passion relics, in particular Christ’s Crown of Thorns, which he purchased in 1239 from Baldwin II, the Emperor of Constantinople. The devout and powerful king wanted to venerate his relics in a private sanctuary entirely dedicated to their worship, protecting them in an immense reliquary as if it were a glass case. At this time, the mid-13th century, Paris was the intellectual capital of the Christian world. The Sainte-Chapelle would become one of its showpieces.
Following the French Revolution, the relics of the Sainte-Chapelle were dispersed, with some being preserved at Notre Dame, but the building has nonetheless retained its soul. It is comprised of two superimposed chapels, which you enter by the lower chapel. In the time of Saint Louis this housed the offices of the nobility and the employees of the palace. Conceived as a crypt, it is marked with the seal of the king: the Fleur de Lys and the Chateau of Castille in homage to the king’s mother, Blanche de Castille.
To reach the light, you have to enter the space that was once reserved for the king; the upper chapel, a kingdom of colour. In this place of multi-hued light, the glorious stained glass windows soar heavenwards to the extent that it seems the architects made the stone all but disappear. You will wonder how these colossal windows and their huge arches can stand unsupported. The Sainte-Chapelle was the most accomplished expression of all the arts and sciences of its time.
Would you like to know more about the Sainte-Chapelle’s history?
Although the stained-glass windows mainly depict scenes from the Bible, several images are not taken from the Holy Book per se but from the Bible of Saint Louis, one of the most beautiful works of the Middle Ages. Here we see the sovereign depicted as a prophet or carrying the Ark of the Covenant. The message is distinctly political, the Sainte-Chapelle placed at the service of Saint Louis’ royal ideology.