March 25, 2013

Freezing inside the Sainte Chapelle

The Sainte Chapelle is not a site that has ever caught my attention other than for the enormous queue in front of the building of justice every time I drive past.

Today I took to opportunity to join Paris Walks once again for an extenisive tour inside and out of the Sainte Chapelle which included skipping the entire queue. Again our guide Cerise demonstrated her extraordinary knowedge of history, architecture and art by explaining the distribution of the weight throughout the chapel. We discovered the iron grid that held together the beautiful stained windows and the signifcance of the symbols inside the church, witness not only to Louis IX's presence but of his dominant mother Blanche de Castille.

I really would have liked to meet that woman along with Katarina de Medici and Maria Stuart, Queen of Scotland. Would make quite a tea party, don't you think?

The "Holy Chapel", located in the courtyard of the Royal Palace on the Île de la Cité, was built to house Louis IX's collection of relics of Christ, which included the Crown of Thorns, the Image of Edessa and some thirty other items.

The bottom third of the chapel was impressive for it's strong colouring of blue, red and gold. The top two thirds of Sainte Chapelle is renowned for its richly hued stained-glass windows, comprising 600 square meters in area. Fifteen huge mid-13th century windows fill the nave and apse, while a large rose window with flamboyant tracery dominates the western wall. Two-thirds of the pieces are original works, representing the finest examples of 12th century craftsmanship. Reds and blues are the dominant colors, in contrast with the 15th century western rose window. In these panes the full biblical story of humanity is recounted.

And that is where our lovely guide lost me. We had been standing outside for 45 minutes admiring the architecture, followed by 30 minutes below ground. When we finally entered the Upper Chapel, the reaction was: "WOW!"

But the cold inside the glass chapel was just too much to stomach. I have been fighting cold weather for over three months now ... and I have had it! 2ºC inside a church is more than I can handle. So after a further 20 minutes I quietly said goodbye and eclipsed out of the Rayonnant Style of Gothic architecture and headed straight to the BHV for some retail therapy.

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