Sainte-Chapelle - Sarah Woodbury

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle is located on the Ile de la cite in Paris.

It is a royal chapel built by Louis, the King of France in the early 13th century, to house the holy relics he’d acquired, among them a fragment of the True Cross and the crown of thorns purportedly worn by Jesus at the crucifixion.

Construction of Sainte-Chapelle began in 1238 and was finished ten years later. Louis’ intent, beyond building a church to house the relics, was to position himself as the preeminent ruler in Europe at this time. The nature of the chapel was intended to draw a parallel between him and Charlamagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor–and effectively make a mockery of the power of the current emperor. After the chapel was constructed, Pope Innocent IV proclaimed that Louis’ acquisition meant that Christ had symbolically crowned Louis with his own crown. 

In acquiring the crown and building the chapel, the king almost bankrupted his kingdom. The reliquary alone cost 100,000 livres. And that was before he built the church. Even today, the stained glass windows in the chapel are original, dating to the 13th century, and is one of the most extensive collections of medieval stained glass in the world.

Saint-Chapelle is a setting for my book, Unbroken in Time. In it, King Phillippe, Louis’ grandson, retreats to pray in Sainte-Chapelle during his battle of wills with Nogaret, his ruthless adviser.


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