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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 (choir). History, 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 Sainte-Chapelle. 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 survive. The Sainte-Chapelle has been a national historic monument since 1862. Gallery, The chapel's rose window. , Detail of a stained glass window. , Detail of a stained glass window depicting a baptism. (Now located at the Musée de Cluny.) , Sculpture. , Interior. , Interior. , Statue of Louis IX. , Access, ___ located near the metro station: Cité.


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