Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stained Glass of Sainte-Chapelle Opposite La Conciergerie's Dark Past

Did you know that among all the French kings, there was one who is canonized as a saint? King Louis IX of France was a devout Catholic and made a saint for his religious fervour during his reign.

He was crowned at the age of 12 and his mother, Blanche of Castile ruled the kingdom until his age of majority. Louis reformed and developed French royal justice in which the king alone is the supreme judge where one must appeal to seek amendment. More specifically, Louis' actions were inspired by his Christian values and he took to punishing actions such as gambling, blasphemy, interest-bearing loan and prostitution. He also bought relics of Christ for which he built the Sainte-Chapelle.

The first palace of the French kings was on the Ile de la Cite and included Sainte-Chapelle, Palais du Justice and La Conciergerie. There is a lot of history on this site alone with respect to other royal homes on this site etc but the current most significant point at this time is that these buildings are all that remain of the Gothic style buildings from the 13th century remaining.

The most notable facts that most people will know is that Saint-Chapelle is the most extensive stained glass collection from the 13th century still intact in the world and La Conciergerie is was the prison where Marie-Antoinette was held before she met the guillotine.

There is no picture that could do seeing these in person, any justice

There are 15 "sections" of stained glass windows which cover 600 square metres with two thirds still being original with each one being 15 metres tall. There is also the famous "rose window" that is absolutely stunning to see in person--unfortunately for us, it was not complete from its restoration. The chapel is made up of two levels, the lower level which is already impressive on its own with lots of bright colours on the walls and floors but wait until you get to the upper chapel and feel like you've just walked into a kaleidoscope. The colours and the images are a sight to behold.

The 'cloth' is even painted on
Not only are the windows as magnificent as you see above, but not a single inch of this impressive Gothic chapel doesn't have something adorning it to make it even more impressive. The walls are not left to their natural state but are painted in vibrant colours of blue, gold, red, green... Nothing is left to fade into the background here. You'll see that even the 'cloth' on the walls not not in fact actual cloth, but painted on to represent actual cloth.

The other pillars and columns are also adorned in gold and more colours and designs. A lot of this is restored following the French Revolution but nevertheless, an impressive treat for the eyes. Again, none of these photos do any real justice to what is witnessed in person. It is most definitely a sight that is worth putting down on your bucket list.

As I keep saying, nothing is left in its natural state... even the floors are adorned with images and designs in vibrant paint colours.

Would you believe it if I told you that these colours would be brighter in their hay-day? Apparently there is a good chance that the colours chosen to restore/recreate what is there now is actually less bright than they actually were, originally!

Now, moving onto La Conciergerie... the darker part of this large complex: the former prison that held many prisoners both famous and not. The largest surviving component of this building is the Hall of the Guards which is currently housing an exhibition in honour of Louis' 800th birthday. Unfortunately for you, because of this, I couldn't get a clear picture of the entire hall in its glory, I could only offer an off-shoot of the main hall...

This is all only a preview of what else we've been up to so far... Still to come? Notre Dame!

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