Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paris' Best #4b: Sainte-Chapelle and Conciergerie

 Now, on your fourth day in Paris, not only do we recommend that you tour Notre-Dame and the Pantheon, but we also recommend that you tour Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie also. They are all relatively close to each other, and all four can be seen in a day. This opening picture is the ceiling in the downstairs portion of Sainte-Chapelle - extremely beautiful.

Sainte-Chapelle is located in the Palais de Justice complex, and when we arrived there about 12:30, there was a wrap-around line of 200-300 people. We got in line and started what turned out to be an hour-long wait.

Warning! Warning! Warning! If you do go to Sainte-Chapelle, go way early in the morning or after 2:30. Why? Because after about a half-hour in line, an employee of Palais de Justice came by and notified that the gate closed from 1:30 to 2:30 and that no one would be let in during that period so we should just go our merry way. Most of us in line ignored him, shocked and in disbelief...we've never heard of such a thing! He came by again about 15 minutes later and basically said we were foolish for remaining in line. And at about 1:20, he came by and said that everybody in line after a certain point (about 5 people ahead of us) would not be let in.

He could see smoke coming out of everyone's ears, so he told a group of us that if we came back at 2:30, he would place us at the front of whatever line had developed at that time. We accepted his offer and went away. What do to for an hour?
 We went to the Conciergerie and bought a combined ticket for it and Sainte-Chapelle. Then we walked down 10 steps and entered the Conciergerie, and this is what we saw.
 Built by Phillipe the Fair in the 1300s, it was the royal palace of the kings until the time they began living at the Louvre. For awhile, it was then rented out to shopkeepers and then, in 1391, it became the first prison in Paris. The room shown here, the first one you enter, was built as an addition to the King's palace as a place for his official gatekeeper and his staff. It is called the Gothic Room.

 Over in this direction can be seen an original circular staircase and the entryway to the kitchen (now closed).
 Marie-Antoinette was held in the Conciergerie while it was a prison during her detention during the French Revolution beginning in 1793. As is known, she was sent from here to the guillotine, along with 2780 other men and women during what is now known as the fifteen month Reign of Terror. The area is the Women's Courtyard, where the detained women like Marie could go outside for some air.

 Here is another smaller room off to one side. Note the gargoyles underneath the lights.
 Once we did get back in line for Sainte-Chapelle, it was quite rewarding because since we were first in line, we entered the church while it was perfectly empty. In fact, our whole hour in the church was spent when it was pretty much empty - woo hoo! Coming in from outside, this is the first thing we saw. AWESOME colors! This room is basically the bookstore now.
 The roof was so intricate and the colors so vibrant that I was overwhelmed. It is really something to see - highly recommended. I couldn't help thinking about playing cards, though, because many of the same design themes and colors we find on today's playing cards are on these walls.

Looking along the wall is more of the same, though as you can see there is some fading and wear down along where people can touch. It is now roped off.
 Walking down to the end of the room and turning the camera upward again, we see this magnificent sight. Extremely beautiful.
 And one more shot before we head upstairs. Going upstairs involved using a tiny circular staircase (I swear I could put my elbows out and touch both rails) that opened up onto the main room upstairs..
...this is truly something you have to see, I'm not kidding. In 1248, Louis IX had this built to house the royal relics including the True Cross. Those several story high stained glass windows are original to the building, having survived all these centuries.
 The room did feel this subdued with the filtered light, but for some reason my camera did not pick up the vibrancy of the stained glass. Each panel tells a story.
 One more shot of the stained glass, taken while I was seated along the edge of the room.
 A statue from the left side of the room...
 ...and a statue from the right side of the room.
 Magnificent. Words fail me.
 Here's something no one else shows you: what the floor at Sainte-Chapelle looks like! Notice how empty the room is. We were very lucky to tour the room in almost complete silence.

 The very front of the room, below the stained glass. I'm not sure what is beneath that cover.
 A niche on the right side of the room.
 The front of the room from another angle.
 Walking outside into the overcast day, we found this collection of artifacts that were piled up along the edge of the chapel. They have apparently fallen off the building over the years and are awaiting repair. There are still plenty of gargoyles in place protecting the building overhead, however.
 And an extremely sad sight: an angel that appears to be in jail behind the wrought iron fence. Somebody bail her out, please!
 We exited the Palias through these ornate gates...what an awesome trip.
 Finally, three pictures I found online. The first two are of the stained glass in order to portray the true richness of the color.
 Here is one of the panels up-close.

And another perspective of the main upper room. It gives you a great idea of the scale, but is way too bright compared to what we saw. Maybe on a very sunny day it looks this way, I don't know.
In any case, enjoy! We had a great time here and so will you. Please take the time to see it.
Time Needed: 1 hour + time in line
Stairs: About 30 steps up, 30 steps down.
Walking: None
What to bring: Camera
Pictures Taken With: Canon S5 IS (all but last 3, anyway)


Jeff Hayes said...

I've only seen a handful of the really great buildings I'd like to see, but so far Sainte-Chapelle is my favorite... by far.

Sandy said...

Wow!!!!! These are gorgeous, those windows, amazing....