Sainte Chapelle & Notre Dame
Today we walked a moderate distance, only ~14,000 steps. We started off going to a place neither Sarah nor I have ever been. On Île de la Cité, there is a church, hidden within the current Palace of Justice (e.g., the National Police headquarters), called Sainte Chapelle. This site was built between 1242 and 1248 with the idea that it would house precious Christian artifacts, a veritable house of relics if you will. In 1239, King Louis IX (and the future Saint Louis) purchased the ‘crown of thorns’ making this one of the centers of Christendom at the time. Many of these relics had belonged to the Emperors of Constantinople (‘it’s Istanbul not Constantinople’ for you They Might Be Giants fans) dating back to the 4th century. His motivation was to make France (and Paris in particular) the “New Jerusalem” and the second capital of Christianity. This particular site was never meant to be a church for the masses, rather it was a location for royalty by divine right with a particular purpose. Surprisingly, much of it survived the ages for us to enjoy today.
The lower chapel is now a place to get pamphlets and purchase some religious trinkets. At the far end, you see this statue and the nice stained glass behind it. Initially, I was thinking, “is that it?”
The upper chapel is where all the action is. To really understand, and get an idea of the magnitude of what you will see, look at this schematic from the pamphlet they give out.
Upper floor schematic showing which part of the Christian Bible each set of stained glass windows is depicting in graphical form.
Ok, so now you’ve got an idea of what it is intending to do, take a look at this overview of what you see when you walk in the door.
Purple magisty indeed.
Wow. Each of these blocks of stained glass (with 4 columns in it) tells an entire story, starting from the bottom going towards the roof. Here is an example of one of the one on the left, the Genesis story.
As you go up each column, starting from he bottom left, you get the whole book of Genesis.
The detail on these individual panes is amazing. *
At the front of the chapel, we see this iconography
Showing the centrality of the Crown of Thorns to this location. At the other end of the chapel was a huge circular window (to be outdone by the Church just up river form this one)
With exquisite details such as this center piece
and this beast on the periphery
The whole place is really a sight to be seen—even the tiles on the floor had a great story to tell. It was a bit difficult to get these images as everyone was standing all over the place, mouth agape, looking up at the stained glass and standing on the very items I was trying to image! *
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For a commoner such as myself, who was never intended to see this inner sanctum, I’m really happy to have made the trek.
Been here a bunch but never actually went inside. Let’s just say, it was just as wonderful. The Rose Windows are a pair of windows at mid-length of the church. They are MASSIVE! *
The detail here is as esquisite as in Sainte Chapelle. *
In the individual chapels around the periphery had some massive oil paintings, each depicting some particular scene that the benefactor of that space found pleasing or inspiring. *
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Outside of Notre Dame is a feast for the eyes as well. The masons who crafted the facad of the old girl were both devious and cunning in how they depicted the central themes of the church.
There is the usual pious individuals (Saint Denis is my favorite, he was apparently beheaded up on the hill by the Romans and picked his head up and carried it down here)
And others *
Subtended by the working and artisan classes who actually built the thing and upon whose backs this was all possible. *
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And then it gets all funky. If you do not follow the rules, your fate may be quite up to to the relative ‘weight’ of your good and bad deeds (here the angel and demon weigh the bounty of your life.
Where if you did not weight up, you were led off to some less than awesome experiences.
These may include being plunged into this burning couldren, head first!
And tortured for all eternity
By all kinds of demons *
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And after all this, even if you are a pious person, one who can afford to buy your own chapel within Notre Dame, the end is both certain and quite defined.
Death always wins
If you have a half day to spare in Paris, these two places are a must-see even if you are not a Christian. The craftsmanship and dedication of the workers that created these amazing structures are something to behold.