I have already spoken here of the chapel of the Saint-Germain-en-Laye castle, which prefigures the Parisian Holy Chapel. The chapel of the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye receives the relics of the crown of thorns given to King Saint Louis in 1238, the Holy Chapel not being consecrated until 1248.
The architect Pierre de Montreuil is in charge of both sites and applies the same principles.
Contrary to the chapel of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Holy Chapel is the first chapel intended for the veneration of relics and built like a vast shrine.
However, the chapel is not designed as a place of pilgrimage, ad the absence of external access proves it. In addition, the Holy Chapel is built within the walls of the royal castle – le Palais de la Cité – which is the main residence of King Saint Louis.
The choice of such a location is significant, since it reinforces the sacred link between the holy relics and the royal crown.
And even if the Palais de la Cité was abandoned as a royal residence by Charles V, the Holy Chapel remains honored by the following royal dynasties.
Closed in 1790, emptied of its contents, deprived of sacred relics and transformed into an archive repository during the French Revolution, the Holy Chapel is restored under the pressure of public opinion in 1840 for thirty years.
Today, the richness of the Holy Chapel lies in its huge stained glass windows.
70% of the stained glass windows are original. Their composition is narrative and highly political, with two distinct cycles.
The first cycle evokes the Hebrew people, from the Genesis to the Apocalypse, the kings of the Old Testament and King Saint Louis, their ultimate successor, and also illustrates the translation of the relics at the origin of the construction of the Holy Chapel.
The second cycle evokes the childhood and the Passion of Jesus-Christ, as well as the life of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist.
The multitude and polychromatic intensity of the Holy Chaple, the elegance of the proportions, the simplicity of the nave, its height – which is almost twice its width – make it a shining jewel of Gothic architecture.
The rose rebuilt in the 15th century takes up the iconographic theme of the Apocalypse and also reaffirms the role of the king as the temporal and spiritual leader.
However, the Holy Chapel has two superimposed levels: the upper chapel, mentioned above, and the lower chapel.
The proportions and lack of light in the lower chapel are more reminiscent of a crypt than a chapel, yet it serves as a parish for all the inhabitants of the palace grounds. The lower chapel has also suffered from the frequent flooding of the Seine: the current state is therefore largely a reconstruction for which the restorers had hardly any old sources.
The spire of the Holy Church dominates from the top of its 34 meters. It is the work of the architect Jean-Baptiste Lassus during the restoration of the Holy Chapel in 1855.
November 25, 2022