La Sainte Chapelle

Visitors to Paris flock in vast numbers to the Île de la Cité in order to marvel at the magnificence of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. This Gothic masterpiece on the banks of the Seine is certainly a Parisian highlight not to be missed but many of the tourists congregated before its façade do not realise that just around the corner there is another place which is even more beautiful. If you do visit Notre Dame do not leave the island without seeing La Sainte Chapelle.

La Sainte Chapelle was constructed in the 13th century to house the Christian relics of Louis IX which included the crown of thorns and fragments of the true cross.  Consecrated in 1248, the chapel is a stunning example of Rayonnant Gothic architecture and stands in what was the royal palace but is now an administrative centre. The chapel was extensively damaged during the French Revolution with many of the relics being taken and scattered across the country. Those that were tracked down are now housed in neighbouring Notre Dame and it is the interior of the chapel, rather than the relics it was built to shelter, which is the big attraction for the visitor.

Entering the chapel causes one of those moments when you just stop to take a deep breath. The jaw dropping beauty of this marvel is impossible to put into words. The interior is made up of a series of stunning stained glass windows which combine to create a riot of light and colour that I have seen nowhere else. There is a blue aura in the chapel which is without compare and the walls seem to come alive and reach out to you. How extraordinary that so many people do not even realise that this chapel exists!

 

You can reach La Sainte Chapelle by Metro. The closest station is Cité which is also the access point for Notre Dame so expect plenty of people in the area. I should also note at this point that the Paris Metro underground system is a marvel in itself. The Metro is highly efficient, good value for money and the stations in the centre of town are largely clean. Some of the stations are ornately decorated and even the buskers are a different class. Here there appear to be none of the annoying rackets you get on the London Underground but rather the peaceful sounds of classical guitars and string quartets. Apparently the buskers have to compete for a licence to perform and it really shows!