Saint Chappelle

IMG_0236On the Île de la Cité in Paris, tucked away to the side of the Palais de Justice sits a medieval building, very tall and thin, with thick walls and gargoyles watching from high above.

The entrance is rather mundane, open to a large room with cement floors, fleur-de-lis decorated pillars, and a statue of an ancient French king.

Along one side of the room is a kind of marketplace, with various books and trinkets for sale.IMG_0223

When I walked in, I thought that was it. There didn’t seem to be anywhere else to go, and I wandered around the room wondering why everyone raved about this place. I told myself not to be disappointed because Saint Chappelle dates back to the 13th century.

There was a statue, and the architecture of the ceiling was in great shape, so I made the most of it.IMG_0253

Then I noticed that every once in a while, someone made their way to a cramped little stairway off to one side of the entrance. Its steep stairs were just as treacherous as those found in the Tower of London, curving round and round to the upper level.

When I stepped out of that claustrophobic space, I beheld the true marvel of Saint Chappelle. My visit corresponded with repairs to all the windows on one side of the room, so I didn’t get the full effect, but still…it was pretty breathtaking.IMG_0252

The windows start at a high level on the walls. I didn’t pay much attention to exactly how high, because OMG look at all those beautiful stained glass windows!

After visiting many Gothic cathedrals, I would guess that these are pretty standard for size and placement.

The thing is, though, that there are so very many windows. They go all around the entire room.IMG_0250

I stood there, dumbstruck, with a room full of strangers.

We milled around, craning our necks to look up, oohing and ahhing at all of the pretty colored windows, and the lovely filtered light coming in. We murmured. The room had a hushed quality, like a museum. I wished for a pew or something to sit on, but there was no furniture. Maybe they can’t get anything up those stairs.

IMG_0257The windows are so breathtaking from the inside that I wondered how I didn’t notice them from the outside. And so I took a few pictures of the exterior when I left. Ah, that explains it.IMG_0255

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