Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Parisian Gem. Saint-Chappelle.




ith two museums under our sightseeing belt, it was time for something different.  From the Rodin Museum, we headed back to Île de la Cité. After all my visits to this lovely city, I have never been to Saint-Chappelle. We tried yesterday and got there too late. Today was our day and since the entry fee was covered in our Paris Museum pass, we had to go.  We made our way via Metro.

Waiting for the train.

Cité station stop.

We emerged at the Cité station stop to the sight of the Palais de Justice.  I knew exactly where we had to go.

Palais de Justice in the background.

Photos allowed but not if you're using a selfie stick!
As I had feared, there was a very, very long queue to get enter the small chapel.  Our Museum Pass gave us free entry but unfortunately, there was no *skip the line* option here so we had no choice but to take our place in line.

At the head of the line was an attendant with his hand on the rope barrier, behind which the line of people snaked.  Periodically, he would lift up the rope barrier - he was limiting the number of people who could enter at any one time.

The line moved but it as slow as molasses.  It was nearly an hour before we got up to the point where I thought we would be allowed in next.

When it was our turn to enter, I scurried along, following the people in front of me.  We stepped inside the chapel and I was a bit puzzled at first because as gorgeous as it was, it didn't look anything like the images I had seen on the web.  Whatever disappointment I felt disappeared the moment I gazed up at the ceiling.  At first glance, it was like looking up at the twilight sky, filled with hundreds of little stars. On closer look, they were hundreds of gold colored fleur de lys.


Moving my eyes back to floor level, the small space was occupied by the chapel's gift shop.  I had no interested so I shifted my eyes back up to admire the interior architecture.  It's glorious.

Saint Chappelle is a 13th century royal medieval Gothic chapel that is considered one of the finest examples of Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. It was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion relics, including Christ's Crown of Thorns, one of the most important relics in medieval Christendom.

As it turned out, this was the lower level of the chapel which was used for parish services.  Albeit a small space, I could have easily spent an hour here just taking photos.  What an interior!  There are carvings, bas relief, painted surfaces, arched surfaces, stained glass, curved lines, curly cue lines, not to mention a few hundred fleur de lys and a whole lot of gold paint.....it's so over the top and ornate but something it all works to create a very colorful yet tastefully elegant space.

The nave has four bays.  




The small elevation of the bays is decorated with trefoil arches topped by an oculus, each of which contains a medallion set with fake gems representing the Apostles.



The choir section.

Golden fleur de lys on a blue background and golden Castillian castles on a red background stand out. They symbolize Saint Louis and his mother, Blanche de Castille.




Just to one side of the front entrance is a small staircase that takes you to the upper level which was used to store the relics.  When I reached the top of the stairs, my jaw dropped to the floor and pretty much stayed there as I took the view.  Oh. My. God!  This is the place that I had seen in the images!  It's a small rectangular shaped space that is surrounded on all four sides by the most magnificent stained glass windows I have ever seen in my entire life!  Even Notre-Dame Cathedral cannot hold a candle to the stunning beauty of this place.

Indeed, the most famous features of the chapel are the fifteen mid-13th-century windows that fill the nave and apse.  Each window measures 15.4 meters (51 feet) in height and 4.25 meters (14 feet) in width - they are huge!  The windows are considered to be among the finest of their type in the world.  They are magnificent.

Each window group has four lancets topped by three rose windows. In the choir, the windows have only two lancets.  The central window in the choir is dedicated to the Passion.



Positioned against the wall of the naves, between groups of windows as statues of the twelve apostles They symbolize the columns of the Church. Unfortunately, it has now become impossible to identify the apostles as their once distinctive markings have all but disappeared.  Like so many other elements in Saint-Chappelle, they have undergone many restorations over the centuries.


The three windows of the eastern apse illustrate scenes from the New Testament while the windows of the nave are dominated by scenes from Old Testament.


 The center window of the eastern apse depicts scenes from The Passion.



The large 16th rose window, that dominates the western wall, is noteworthy. Its style is Flamboyant Gothic. Some of its colors (especially the green) can't be found in the other 13th century stained glasses because it was not technically possible to achieve the green color.  The rose window in Saint-Chappelle may not be as large in size as the two in Notre-Dame Cathedral but it is equally extraordinary.



Although the interior is dominated by the stained glass, every inch of the remaining wall surface and the vault was also richly colored and decorated.

Quatrefoils painted with scenes of saints and martyrs and inset with painted and gilded glass, emulating Limoges enamels, 

Detailed view of a quatrefoil.

Carved angels surround the quatrefoils.


There was a laminated handout explaining each group of windows.  I was impressed that Z took the time to read the information.  I much preferred to just admire the splendor of the space I was standing in.


The reliquary with the Crown of Thrones.



Surround the entry door to the chapel are more paintings with scenes from the Bible.



The painting in the center depicts the Judgement of Christ.


We spent quite a bit of time inside Saint-Chappelle and it was worth every minute of it!  I'm really glad that we made the effort to come here.

By now, it was very late afternoon and I was ready to head back to the apartment.  I really enjoy walking around this city.  Even the simplest sights, like a florist shop, makes me smile - everything is so nicely displayed here.  Remember, I live in a country where it's common for us to buy our flowers in the supermarket.  Not very classy, I'm sad to say.


Everywhere you go, you see electric cars plugged in for charging.  Why can't we do this in the US?


We eventually made our way to the Panthéon, which we could also get in using our Musuem Pass but dang it, we arrived about 5 minutes too late!   So, all we could do was take pictures of the outside of the building.  We'll have to come back tomorrow.

From here, it was just a short walk back to our neighborhood which is so Parisian you really don't see that many tourists around.  I like it.

There are some very quirky buildings here.

We had dinner at another neighborhood bistro but it was not a memorable meal. It's a hit or miss with bistros as with any other type of restaurant. Tonight was not so good.  In fact, the only thing memorable about it was the clafouti we had for dessert.

Getting ready to dig into his starter.

The clafouti.

Thankfully, our corner boulangerie/patisserie was open and they still had a few pastries for sale.  I picked the cute purple one which based on the decorations had blueberry and almond in it.  That was our true dessert for the night!


They packaged it in a very cute box!  Presentation does indeed count!

Time now to just relax and get ready for another full day of sightseeing tomorrow!

Goodnight from the 5th Arrondissment of Paris!