This summer I had the exciting opportunity to travel to France and stay with a host family for 20 days. The trip was wonderful and I have many fond memories, but one of the best things I did while in France was visit the small Catholic church of Sainte Chapelle. Sainte Chapelle is located on Paris’s Ile-de-la-Cite, just a few blocks away from the world famous Notre Dame de Paris, and metro stop which offers convenient and fairly inexpensive transportation to the two famous monuments. I would recommend visiting both churches, but if time constraints make that impossible, my suggestion would be to skip Notre Dame and go to Sainte Chapelle.
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As with almost all monuments, there is a line outside of the chapel and visitors have to buy tickets. The ticket prices range from 5 euros to 8 euros, but the visit is well worth the cost. The first step inside revealed a church unlike any I had seen before. The walls are painted in rich designs of blue and green, while the arching ceiling is covered in vibrant red and gold paint. The ticket price includes the option of taking a tour. The tour guide explained the significance of the colors and designs painted inside the chapel and how people now are able to restore things like paint or stained glass windows to make monuments look how they did when they were new. The first floor was a marvelous look at the small chapel which had once been the church of the kings of France, but the best part of Sainte Chapelle was yet to come.
On either side of the entrance doorway, small spiral staircases lead to the top floor, which, as the tour guide explained, was originally solely for the use of the king. I climbed the stairs with excitement, knowing that the top floor was supposed to be the home of some gorgeous stained glass windows.
In no way at all did my expectations prepare me for what awaited at the top of the stairs. One look into the room took my breath away. The top floor of this chapel has a smaller and more intimate feel than the bottom floor. The small amounts of wall are painted just as richly as the walls on the floor below. The alter contains a shining golden replica of Sainte Chapelle as a whole. But none of these wonderful pieces could compete with the windows.
Floor to ceiling, covering every wall of Sainte Chapelle in the brilliant color of ancient art, the windows measure more than 600 square meters of glass. Though I try my best, there are really no words to describe how stunning the top floor of Sainte Chapelle was. One this floor, the tour guide explained which biblical stories some of the windows were representing. He pointed out parts of the windows that I would never have noticed on my own, and I was grateful to have the chance to understand better the original intention of the windows.
In my opinion, the best part of travelling is getting to immerse myself in another country and absorb that country’s culture and history. Sainte Chapelle is the perfect example of a destination that does that. In a visit to one building, a traveler can see the strength of Catholicism as part of France’s culture, the beauty that is everywhere in this country, and the history of the rich living of the kings and queens of France. Sainte Chapelle was truly a marvelous destination during an unforgettable trip.
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