Sainte Chapelle is a 13th century Gothic style royal chapel. It’s on the Ile de la Cite in the River Seine. Here are a few things to do when you visit Sainte Chapelle Paris;
- Huge Stained Glass Windows
- Witness Beams of Purple Sunlight
- Sculptures of the Twelve Apostles
- Former home of the Crown of Thorns
- Visit Sainte Chapelle Lower and Upper Chapel
- View the Rose Window
- Sainte Chapelle Gargoyles
- Rare Capetian Symbols
I recommend you buy a skip the line advance ticket to enjoy this Paris attraction.
Best Time to Visit Sainte Chapelle Paris
You must visit Sainte Chapelle when the light is low and you can easily photograph the stained glass windows. For this reason, the best time to visit is late afternoon, close to sunset. If you’re not there to take photos this is still the best time to visit as the interior of the upper chapel is glowing purple. Alternatively, try visiting when it first opens which depending on the time of year could be close to sunrise. Furthermore, if you visit during the winter, it’s possible to stay after sunset when the candles are illuminated.
Sainte Chapelle Skip the Line
You can skip the line at Sainte Chapelle, simply buy your ticket in advance. However, as Sainte Chapelle is part of the Palais de Justice Paris, you will have to line up to pass security. The good news is that you may visit the stunning Palais de Justice for free.
Sainte Chapelle Facts
It was built in the 13th century and was part of the King of France residence until the 14th century. The Crown of Thorns which used to reside here cost 3 times more than the chapel itself. Moreover, King Louis IX would show it to the Parisian people annually on Good Friday. Sainte Chapelle features both a lower and upper chapel. During hours of low sunlight the interior of the upper chapel glows purple. The upper chapel features twelve sculptures which are in fact, the twelve apostles. In total, there are 15 huge stained glass windows which depict hundreds of biblical scenes on over 600m2.
Finally, this one is for photographers, the last and perhaps most important fact is that most of the beauty is above you. As a result, it doesn’t matter how many other tourists are in the chapel, you can still take an unobstructed shot.
Sainte Chapelle Paris – Exterior
Not much is said about the exterior of this royal chapel. This could be because it’s surrounded by buildings such as the Conciergerie and Palais de Justice. For this reason, you cannot really appreciate its beauty, let alone photograph it. Nonetheless, do look up to the spire and also to the gargoyles.
Sainte Chapelle Gargoyles
A classic symbol of Gothic architecture are Gargoyles. There are several Gargoyles guarding the rooftop of the Sainte Chapelle.
The chapel terrace features some biblical tiles. You may recognise Adam and Eve, or Noah’s Arc.
Crown of Thorns
The Crown of Thorns was famously bought for over 3 times the price of the Holy Chapel itself. Unfortunately, today it has been moved to the Notre Dame Cathedral therefore you cannot see it. If you’re wondering, yes – it survived the fire. In addition to the Crown of Thorns, Sainte Chapelle also used to house a nail as well as wood from the Holy Cross which also moved to Notre Dame Cathedral.
The Twelve Apostles of Sainte Chapelle
The upper chapel will no doubt dazzle you with the purple glow from the 600m2 of stained glass windows. If you can see past this glow there is much more detailed art. One nice touch to this chapel are the 12 apostle statues circling the it. In addition, the candles are stunning and during the winter you’ll find them illuminated. On the subject of apostles, did you know the tomb of St John is in Ephesus, Turkey and St Philip is in Bodrum, Turkey.
Sainte Chapelle Altar
Imagine having front row seats in the Holy Chapel when King Louis IX was showing the Christian relics to the people. Relics which of course include the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the Holy Cross. It’s from the Altar where King Louis IX would show these relics.
The Rose Window features 87 petals. This feature was installed during the 15th century. Although noteworthy, it’s not nearly as beautiful as the purple stained glass windows.
Narrow Winding Staircase
There are 2 narrow winding staircases which connect the upper and lower chapels. Don’t worry, they are one way and not too high. For this reason, you won’t get out of breath.
Other than the stunning architecture, the prominent piece in the lower chapel is a statue. But, who is the statue in the lower chapel? This is a statue of King Louis IX, also known as Saint Louis. He is perhaps the mastermind of this huge Sainte Chapelle project which originally housed the important Christian relics.
Lower Chapel Ceiling
Both the ceilings of the upper and lower chapels are stunning. However, the lower chapel has a much lower ceiling therefore you can admire and photograph it more easily.
Colored Floor Tiles
With so much beauty above you it’s easy to miss the colored floor tiles. The prominent symbol in the floor tiles is Capetian. Did you know Sainte Chapelle is one of the earliest buildings of the House of Capet?
Sainte Chapelle Gift Store
The lower chapel houses a gift shop. Here you can buy not only beautiful images of the chapel but also books explaining the history in detail.
Palais de Justice Paris
You may wish to enter the adjacent Palais de Justice de Paris. If not to admire the architecture, to visit the bathroom before you further explore Paris.
Enjoy your Sainte Chapelle Paris Visit
Make sure you visit early morning or late evening when the sunlight penetrates the stained glass windows. Nowhere else in the world does a building create such a warm purple glow. Furthermore, buy your ticket in advance to avoid any unnecessary queuing outside the royal chapel.
Why not visit Basilica Cathedral of Saint Denis, which is also close to the famous Stade de France.