Experience France with Geri: Ile de la Cité Part 4

We leave Notre Dame and move toward our next visit, the magnificent Sainte Chapelle with its stunning display of stained glass. But along the way there are a few interesting spots to notice. We go straight across the plaza and take a right onto Rue de la Cité. The large building on the corner is the Hôtel Dieu, a charity hospital built by the church in the middle ages, and still in use today. Now we turn left on Rue de Lutèce. The set of long green wooden buildings you see on the square are in the art nouveau architectural style and host a permanent flower market opened daily.

As we continue along, we notice the beautiful Métro entrance for the Cité station in art nouveau as well. There aren't too many of these old, original station entrances left. They date from around 1900 and were going to be replaced but got spared by Parisians who protested to save them. As we approach the Boulevard du Palais, we are opposite the striking gilded gates of the Palais de Justice, the French court system. We turn left to find the entrance for La Sainte Chapelle. Since we are entering the courts, we need to go through an x-ray inspection, and then we enter the courtyard where we purchase our tickets at the entrance of the chapel. La Sainte Chapelle was built in 1248 by King Louis the 9th, also called Saint-Louis. He built it to house what was considered to be the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the Cross, relics brought back from the Middle East during the Crusades. The Crown of Thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at the crucifixion, is now in Notre Dame and only shown on Good Friday. The chapel used to be connected to a palace, but now is surrounded by the 19th century court buildings. The chapel has just light supporting columns and spaces filled with glass. This ensemble, so fragile looking, hasn't had a crack or break for 7 centuries. The ground floor is attractive, but it is on the second floor that the magnificent windows are found. So we will take the narrow staircase up. During the years that I led this tour, I would always go first up the stairs to have the pleasure of hearing the comments of my tour group as they first caught sight of the spectacle that awaited them. Most of the time it was “Wow!” or “Oh, my God!”, usually uttered with a breathless reverence.

The small room is an enormous glass display—the most ancient stained glass in Paris, and the largest expanse of stained glass in the world, 1500 yards. The color is breathtaking, like opening a jewel box of precious stones; this is one of the best representatives of the brilliant stained glass artwork of the 13th century. After being bathed by this kaleidoscope of color, we reluctantly leave the Sainte Chapelle to continue to the end of our visit to Ile de la Cité.