4 boulevard du Palais, Paris, France [ Map ]
Built in c.1241-48 for St Louis IX (1214-70) of France, La Sainte-Chapelle (the ‘Holy Chapel’) was constructed at great expense to serve as a palace chapel for the French royal family and to house sacred relics, including what was believed to be the relic of Jesus Christ’s Crown of Thorns, which Louis IX had purchased for a fortune in 1239. The building was desecrated during the French Revolution. It was restored by Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879) in the mid-nineteenth century and is now a museum.
Sainte-Chapelle is a highlight of the UNESCO-listed Banks of the Seine World Heritage Site in Paris. The building comprises two chapels: a lower chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary; and an upper chapel, formerly the palace chapel, which includes a series of stained glass windows of extraordinary beauty depicting scenes from the Old Testament and the Passion of Christ.
Eymard visited the Sainte-Chapelle in January 1849, when the building was in the midst of its main restoration phase. Soon afterwards, he wrote to his sisters, drawing on some of the wisdom of Ecclesiastes:
. . . what made me very happy was to be able to visit and venerate the Saint-Chapelle, built by St Louis, where the precious relics of the Sacred Crown of Thorns and a large part of the True Cross were kept until the Revolution. In this magnificent church I said to myself: Here is the place where so many saints have prayed, it is the most venerable place in France. All the kings and great ones came here to pray. And yet, my good sisters, when we have seen all these beautiful royal palaces, all that is richest on earth, we still say to ourselves: Everything is vanity, everything passes. Heaven is worth more.