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La Sainte-Chapelle (French pronunciation: [la sɛ̃t ʃapɛl], The Holy Chapel) is a Gothic chapel on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France. It is often regarded as the high point of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. The Sainte Chapelle was sponsored by King Louis IX of France. The date when building work started is unknown (some time between 1239 and 1243) but the chapel was largely complete at the time of its consecration on the 26th of April 1248.[1]



The Sainte-Chapelle, the palatine chapel[2] in the courtyard of what is now known as La Conciergerie but was, at that time, the royal palace on the Île de la Cité, was built to house precious relics: Christ's crown of thorns, the Image of Edessa and thirty other relics of Christ that had been in the possession of Louis IX since August 1239, when it arrived from Venice in the hands of two Dominican friars. Unlike many devout aristocrats who stole relics, the saintly Louis bought his precious relics of the Passion, purchased from the Latin emperor at Constantinople, Baldwin II, for the exorbitant sum of 135,000 livres, which was paid to the Venetians, to whom it had been pawned.[3] The entire chapel, by contrast, cost 40,000 livres to build and until it was complete the relics were housed at chapels at the Château de Vincennes and a specially built chapel at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In 1241, a piece of the True Cross was added along with other relics. Thus the building in Paris, consecrated 26 April 1248, was like a precious reliquary: even the stonework was painted with medallions of saints and martyrs in the quatrefoils of the dado arcade, which was hung with rich textiles.[4]

At the same time, it reveals Louis' political and cultural ambition, with the imperial throne at Constantinople occupied by a mere Count of Flanders and with the Holy Roman Empire in uneasy disarray, to be the central monarch of western Christendom. Just as the Emperor could pass privately from his palace into the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, so now Louis could pass directly from his palace into the Sainte-Chapelle.

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