Imagine looking inside a kaleidoscope, with a myriad of colors creating magical visions with light. You can experience exactly this from within the magnificent cathedral of Sainte Chapelle Paris. The 13th-century cathedral is an architectural marvel where thin stone columns support nearly 6,500 square feet of spellbinding stained glass. The red, blue, and purple hues come to life when the sun streams through them, narrating a tale as old as time. One of the most visited attractions in Paris, Sainte Chapelle is a must-visit on your Paris tour. We have put together a guide with information and tips on making your visit to Saint Chapelle memorable!
Why Visit Sainte Chapelle
The Sainte-Chapelle Cathedral is a reimagination, of both the architecture and the celebration of Christendom itself. The monument, one of the fastest built churches in its time, was created specially to store the relics of Christ including the Crown of Thorns. Not only was it the perfect building to commemorate the glory of Christ, but also established Louis IX among the greats for bringing the relics to France.
The 13th-century monument distinctly moved from the dark and brooding medieval style to a vibrant modern style that used arches and stained glass. It inspires awe while simultaneously creating a sense of grandeur and weightlessness. The 6,458 square feet of stained glass depicts 1,134 biblical scenes and is one of the most significant works of stained glass in the world. Recently renovated, the stained glass of Sainte-Chapelle is a visual wonder, where art and architecture combine to offer a surreal and unmissable experience!
How to Beat the Sainte Chapelle Queue
Sainte Chapelle is among the most visited attractions in Paris, and there are always huge queues waiting to get inside. You will encounter two queues at the monument, one to buy the tickets, and the second at the security. You can skip the first line by purchasing Sainte Chapelle tickets online and head straight to security. The security process is thorough, and you cannot cut short the time; however, if you visit the church in the mornings, you will face fewer crowds. Try to get in early as you must view the church during the daytime when the stained glass is in its absolute glory.
Sainte Chapelle Tickets
Highlights of Sainte Chapelle
Sainte Chapelle Exterior
The grey exterior of Sainte Chapelle offers no clue to its breathtaking interiors, yet manages to capture the imagination of visitors. Built in the Rayonnant style of Gothic architecture, Sainte Chapelle is built in stone. A string course signifies the internal division of the upper and lower chapel; one can also observe the small spherical triangle windows of the lower chapel and the tall windows of the upper chapel. The cathedral is topped with a spire 78 feet and has deep buttresses with pinnacles decorated with crowns of thorns referring to the treasures inside the cathedral.
Sainte Chapelle Interior
The interiors are opulent and luxuriously decorated to glorify Christ and his sacrifice. The stained glass windows instantly occupy the gaze of a visitor, but the area below the walls known as the ‘Dado’ is equally decorated. It includes colorful motifs as well as rich textile hangings. The main features though are the statues of the twelve apostles and the statue of Saint Peter. These statues are excellent examples of the Parisian sculpting during the medieval times. Down in the lower chapel, a statue of Virgin Mary greets visitors to the chapel.
Upper & Lower Chapels
The Sainte Chapelle is divided into two chapels; the lower chapel was meant for the royal staff, while the upper chapel was reserved for the King and his family. The lower chapel has a gilded architecture with smaller stained glass windows and has a somber atmosphere. It is popular for the oldest wall painting in Paris, a 13th-century fresco of the Annunciation. The upper chapel is the highlight of the cathedral with its high stained glass windows and high arched ceiling.
The vault design of Sainte Chapelle is what makes the architecture of the chapel remarkable. The high vaults of the upper chapel form unique rib-like cages that support the weight of the roof on the slender columns. The vaults of the upper chapel are a deep blue with golden stars depicting heaven; this is a contrast to the vaults of the lower level which are also blue but are decorated with the fleur-de-lys, the French royal symbol.
The Great Shrine
The focus of the upper chapel is directed at the stunning golden shrine which housed the relics of the Passion of the Christ. The relics were bought at a princely sum of 135,000 livres from the Constantinople Emperor, Baldwin II. Twenty-two items belonged to this collection of relics, including the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the Holy Cross. Today, the shrine remains empty and relics have been transferred to the neighboring Notre Dame Cathedral.
Sainte Chapelle is located within the Royal Palace complex of Palais de la Cité.
- By Bus – You can take the bus lines 21, 27, 38, 85, and 96.
- By Metro – You can take the Line 4 and get down at the station Cité. The palace complex is a block away by walk. Once you reach the Palais de Justice, the entrance to Saint Chapelle will be on your left.
Sainte Chapelle Hours
Sainte Chapelle is open every day and the last admission is 30 minutes prior to closing time. The church remains closed on January 1, May 1, and December 25.
- From January 2 to March 31: 9 AM - 5 PM
- From April 1 to September 30: 9 AM - 7 PM
- From October 1 to December 31: 9 AM - 5 PM
- The best way to experience Sainte Chapelle is to attend a musical concert inside the church. Starting summer, the inside of St. Chapelle resounds with the classical music that is almost a spiritual experience! Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Mozart & Bach, Goldoni Quarter, Bach & Paganini are some of the musical pieces played during these special concerts.
- You can enjoy free entry to Saint Chapelle on the first Sunday of every month between 1st November to 31st March. If you are under the age of 18, or an EU citizen in the age group of 18-25 then you can enjoy entry free throughout the year!
- The Sainte Chapelle hours are usually from 9 AM onwards, however, there is an afternoon break from 1 PM to 2 PM. If you have to visit it in the afternoon, then reach by 1:45 PM so you can have an early spot in the security queue.
- Sainte Chapelle is wheelchair accessible. Although the regular entrance is through the staircase, those with mobility issues can enter via Boulevard du Palais where an elevator will take you to the upper chapel.
Sainte Chapelle Cathedral Facts
- Sainte Chapelle took just six years to complete, it started construction in 1242 and finished in 1248. It was one of the fastest construction works of the time.
- In 2015, the stained glass windows underwent a massive restoration costing $10 million just in time for the 800th birth anniversary of King Louis IX.
- Interestingly, there are no records of the architect of the Sainte Chapelle, although legend accords the status to Pierre de Montreuil, who also remodeled the Royal Abbey of Saint-Denis and the southern facade of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
- The Sainte Chapelle has been accorded the status of a National Historic Monument in France since 1862.
Sainte Chapelle Reviews
The stained glass panels and artistry that is found at this historical church are magnificent.
Each area of this historic venue is breathtaking. Please take time to hear the history when you are by the audio/video station. To listen to the voices detailing the love, workmanship, and hours of fine craftsmanship involved in the restoration of these art works is to gain a fine appreciation. It leaves you with a sense of awe at the restoration and the value of such dedication to detail.
Ann V, TripAdvisor, June 2018
My husband and I were blown away by how beautiful this cathedral was. The purple stained glass windows were absolutely gorgeous and the many statues and gargoyles were so well done. We had no idea how wonderful this was going to be until we got inside. We visited on a Saturday evening, about an hour before it was going to close, and only waited about 15 minutes to get to the ticket window and go inside. I highly recommend you take the time to visit it.
MariaBCalifornia, TripAdvisor, June 2018
See what others have to say about Sainte Chapelle Paris on TripAdvisor.