This marvel of High Gothic architecture
was built for Louis IX in less than 33 months in 1245-48. The chapel
was built to house the precious Christian relics which Louis had acquired
from the Byzantine Emperor - and which had cost him two and a half times
as much as the building of the chapel.
The chapel is 33m/110ft long by
17m/55ft wide, 76m/250ft high to the tip of the spire and 42m/140ft to the
top of the gable.
The Chapelle Basse (Lower Chapel) was
originally for the court servants. Its vaulted roof, only 6.60m/22ft high,
is borne on 14 columns set close to the walls.
The Upper Chapel (Chapelle Haute) is
the Sainte Chapelle proper. It was dedicated to the Holy Relics and was
reserved for the king, the royal family and high dignitaries of the court.
The relics - a splinter of the True Cross, a fragment from the crown of
thorns and a nail from the Cross - are now preserved in the Treasury of
70ft high buttresses provide the
framework for the windows, 50ft high by 13ft wide. Apart from a low blind
arcade decorated with scenes of martyrdom round the base, the chapel has
no walls as such.. The stained glass depicts more than 1,000
different Biblical scenes.