October 25, 2022
Today Melissa and I rose early so we could make our appointed 9:00 am tour time for Sainte-Chapelle. We had checked the Metro route yesterday morning and then settled on arriving via the bus line we took back during the afternoon (no stairs). We got up and got dressed realizing we would not have time for breakfast. We found the stop (after several tries) and waited for the bus that would take us by the cathedral. We were early enough that we got a seat on the bus and then rode toward our destination in the city center. As we approached, I was glad to see a stop directly in front of the chapel. However, the bus did not stop. Neither did it at the next stop. Finally, someone else wanted off and pressed the stop button (I did not know there was one). We walked back to the line that had formed in front of the chapel entrance and I looked at my pre-paid tickets. They were clearly marked 10:00 am. We had another hour to wait until they would let us enter.
When I looked online, I found Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel) is a royal chapel in the Gothic style within the medieval Palais de la Cité. This is an island in the river Seine which served as the residence of the Kings of France until the 14th century. Construction began sometime after 1238 and the chapel was consecrated on 26 April 1248. Sainte-Chapelle is considered among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. It was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion relics, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns, one of the most important relics in medieval Christendom. This crown was later held in the nearby Notre-Dame Cathedral until the 2019 fire, which it survived. Along with the Conciergerie, Sainte-Chapelle is one of the earliest surviving buildings of the Capetian royal palace on the Île de la Cité. Although damaged during the French Revolution and restored in the 19th century, it has one of the most extensive 13th-century stained glass collections anywhere in the world. Sainte-Chapelle is no longer a church, having been secularized after the French Revolution which ended state religion.
Since there was a café across the street from the entrance, we decided to get a crepe and a cup of coffee for breakfast. As we leisurely enjoyed the morning, we were able to watch as a police van pulled over a man who had made a wrong turn on his scooter. The van stopped and five officers piled out of the van to question this dastardly villain. After 10 minutes of interrogation, he was given a ticket and allowed to continue his way. As the police left, we saw it was time to get back in line. We noticed all the people who had waited without tickets had entered while we were gone. Still, we were going into Chapelle, so I did not care. We surveyed the intricate stained glass and the ring halo window that was a copy of the one in Notre Dame. We left thinking it might be fun to mix with the crowds, so we made our way to the Louver where we had seen crowds on yesterday’s bus tour.
THOUGHTS: Ever since learning of the glass pyramid at the Louver I have wanted to look through the top. Although there were ropes around the front of the building, I was able to get close enough along the side to do just that. I got a view of the escalators and entrance desk (I had expected more). As we made our way back to the hotel, we found a pizza restaurant. Melissa had been craving pizza and I admit, although it was different than I was used to, it tasted divine. As so often happens while traveling, nothing we encountered was what we expected. Chapelle was smaller than I expected, although the stained glass was exquisite. The view into the pyramid was the entrance to the museum, and not glorious art works. The pizza was totally different, but not to be missed. This is the wonder of going to unknown places, there is always something new around the corner. That is true both with buildings, and with new cultures. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.