Join us for a visit to the beautiful Sainte Chapelle, in Paris. This post was written by the President of Faith Journeys, John Wiscombe, and is a great example of the depth of knowledge you will find with our company and where we get our passion for travel, especially to Christian religious sites around the world.
Sainte Chapelle is a spiritual, artistic, and architectural jewel in the very heart of Paris on the Ile de la Cité It was built between 1238 and 1248 by King Louis IX (later to become St. Louis) to house the sacred relics of Christ’s passion (most importantly the Crown of Thorns) purchased from the Emperors of Constantinople. Today it is considered one of the greatest Gothic masterpieces of all Christendom.
The richest decoration is found inside. Sainte Chapelle consists of two different levels — the ground floor being dedicated to the king’s officers, and the upper level dedicated exclusively to the king and his family. The stained glass (all 13th Century, created by the same artisans who produced the world-renowned stained glass for Chartres Cathedral) in the upper chapel is universally recognized as a medieval wonder. The panels contain 1,130 biblical figures from both Testaments.
I have been in Sainte Chapelle probably 20+ times, and each time have experienced the same awe-struck reverence for both the inimitable craftsmanship of the stained glass and for the biblical stories, all culminating in or pointing to the Passion. One has to move slowly and reverently, as if in the presence of something other-worldly and awe-inspiring to the point of adoration. The stained glass is stunning no matter the time of day or the intensity of outside lighting. One can only imagine the effect of this masterpiece on pilgrims from the Middle Ages who were looking on something they would never see in their own surroundings, and certainly would never forget, and hold in reverence for the rest of their lives.
I have visited this Shrine with student groups, with adult pilgrims of many different faiths. I have visited with my family (a very special experience), and as a single visitor. The effect is always powerful and seldom varies as one appreciates the craftsmanship, admires the faith of builders, artisans, architects, sculptors who poured all of their medieval devotion and love into this celestial sanctuary.
The effect on the visitor remains the same today. One is overcome upon entering the Upper Chapel, and one wants to linger and not rush, as if to savor and prolong exposure to something so exquisite and so holy.
With the construction of Sainte Chapelle and the storing of the holy relics (on public display every Good Friday), King Louis IX established Paris as a major pilgrimage destination and center of Catholicism in Europe to which pilgrims have gravitated now for centuries.