Built by the obsessively pious Louis IX (1214–70), this Gothic jewel is home to the oldest stained-glass windows in Paris. The chapel was constructed over three years, at phenomenal expense, to house the king’s collection of relics acquired from the impoverished emperor of Constantinople. These included Christ’s Crown of Thorns, fragments of the Cross, and drops of Christ’s blood—though even in Louis’s time these were considered of questionable authenticity. Some of the relics have survived and can be seen in the treasury of Notre-Dame, but most were lost during the Revolution.
The narrow spiral staircase by the entrance takes you to the upper chapel where the famed beauty of Sainte-Chapelle comes alive: 6,458 square feet of stained glass are delicately supported by painted stonework that seems to disappear in the colorful light streaming through the windows. Deep reds and blues dominate the background, noticeably different from later, lighter medieval styles such as those
of Notre-Dame’s rose windows.