Thursday, 29 May 2014

La Sainte Chapelle

I stood in liner between a California Art teacher and her mum and waited fro admittance to la Sainte Chapelle. It drizzled off and on and I watched this pair repeatedly take out and replace their collapsible umbrella from a large plastic baggy. (I guess one is so unaccustomed to rain in Los Angeles that one can't really deal with even the tines dampness.)

So here is the main tympanum outside of the chapel.

There is a lovely madonna underneath, and I captured a very interesting guy looking out from the chapel in a most mysterious way.

I quite like this shot.

The lower level served as the Parish church. The surfaces were painted in bright colors and in itself this is  quite a delightful space.

There is something positively voluptuous about these gilt painted columns.

The downstairs nave area has four bays because e the building has an unusually wide construction 10.7 meters wide versus 6.6 meters in height so additional pillars were added to diminish the appearance of the interior width.

The altar area is now used to house various historic artifacts including a sculpture of Louis IX. Louis had political aspirations and did not want to be one down from the high pooh bah Emperor in Constantinople who could walk from his palace directly into the Hagia Sophia without going outdoors. He modeled the chapel a bit on the palatine chapel in Aachen, Charlemagne's old two story chapel with an eye to taking over his historic gig as Holy Roman Emperor.

Those black pillars on either side of Louis are there to support the extremely heavy reliquary on the floor above.

Here is one of the gargoyles who has been retired.

The gorgeous stained glass filled chapel in the Rayonnant (weightless vertically imposing) gothic style is upstairs - an ethereal blue filled space with images from the Bible. More precisely the western bay starts with a retelling of stories from the book of Genesis (under renovation at present) and then continues through  ten sets of windows in double panels detailing stories from Exodus, Joseph, Numbers/Leviticus, Joshua/Deuteronomy, Judges Jeremiah/Tobias, Judith/Job, Esther, David and the Book of Kings (with lots and lots of panels showing crowned kings). The final sequences show the rediscovery of relics of Jesus (like the Crown of Thorns) and their miracles and how they are brought by Louis to the chapel. Louis of course played this aspect up, bringing the relics the last part of their journey to the chapel barefoot and in the clothing of a penitent. (Those French monarchs just loved to dress up like the other half!)  

There were of course many travails of the chapel, fires, a flood and and naturally the French revolution took its toll on the windows, 414 of the 1134 windows having been destroyed as France gained its independence from the King. These have been reconstructed and they work nicely with the originals which are stained and painted glass.

Unfortunately the rose window was facing the strain of the years and threatening to collapse, so it was being renovated and was unavailable for viewing. Just for the sake of completion I am including a photo of it here from Wikipedia done by B Didier.

The rose window is a complex construction in three concentric circles showing the sacrifice of the lamb of god and the apocalypse and sets the tone for this church as a reliquary of selflessness (which can be translated to mean actually a declaration of power to give Louis IX leverage to become the next Holy Roman Emperor. Everything is politics!)

Here are just a few of the  many photos I took of the chapel windows.

The nave is extremely high, each window panel measuring about 12 meters high. They were guarded over by statues of the 12 Apostles, half of which were damaged during the revolution, so they now reside in a museum and have been replaced by replicas.

The reliquary is ornate and decorated in the same high gothic style.

This window shows knights fighting (I'm sure which part of the Bible it is from.)

These images are in no particular order, but I find the detail and colors beautiful, so I present an incomplete set of photos, but ones which speak to the atmospheric quality of the space.


This panel seems to relate to the evangelists as there is a winged being, a lion, an ox an eagle represented.

Here is a closer view of that middle panel.

It was time to say goodbye and head back to the conference, but it had been a very edifying and inspiring visit.

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