The exterior of the cathedral, especially from the back and from along the Seine river, is rather impressive. Its sheer size with its flying buttressed flanked out to support the high stained glass windows, the gargoyles watching over from the top and the intricate cravings – are just grand. It took more than a 100 years to complete the cathedral with a number of architects at its helm. It was almost an on going project for centuries since 1163.
*I managed to skype call; download my walking maps and surf the web without much lag.
This garden leads to the The Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, a memorial to the 200,000 people deported from Vichy France to the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. The entrance is a descending stairway leading from the garden. Its designed to represent the concentration camps where the passages were narrow with spiked gates and restricted views and the sight of horizon is no where to be found. It’s rather overwhelming to be in here and at the same time moving.
From the exterior, this church is not as merely impressive as Notre-Dame or even Sacré Coeur. BUT… it is has the most impressive interior and stained glassed windows in Paris. Even Notre-Dame doesn’t come an inch close to Sainte-Chapelle’s stained glass work – flabbergasted, breath taking and speechless are the only words that comes to mind as you’d be in either one or all 3 categories.
*Quick history lesson: The Palais de Justice is constructed on the grounds that used to be palace and seat of royal power from the 10th to 14th century. And on this grounds were the Conciergerie and the church, Sainte Chapelle. The church was constructed between 1242 – 1248, under the instruction of Louis IX, to house the relics of Christ - one of it being the Crown of Thorns.
The colours of red, blue, green and gold are prominent on the columns and walls in this lower chapel. The walls are decorated with blind trefoil armatures and 12 medallions featuring the apostles. The domed ceiling is painted in blue and gold that adds on to the beauty for this lower chapel. It’s a wondrous sight to see but this is not the cream of the crop. This is merely the chapel built for the palace staff.
As you’d turn around to face to entrance, you’d notice a narrow stairway leading to the upper chapel. This little narrow stairway gives birth to a bright-spacious-high-ceiling space that is truly fit for a king. Stained glassed window, each done in the same style and manner, covers the entire length of the wall. The windows depict the entire Christian history from the Book of Genesis to Christ’s resurrection – monumental is an understatement considering all this was achieved in a short span of time.
*The Upper Chapel is only meant for the king, his family and close friends as well as the canon’s that was leading the service. During the time of the French kings, this part of the chapel was connected directly to the palace. It took around 6 years to complete the construction of this church under King Louis IX’s watchful eyes - Man certainly has great taste!
Step 1: Read left to right.
Step 2: Move onto the row above and read right to left.
Now repeat step 1 and 2 over and over again till you get to the top of the window to understand the story.
The prize collection of this church is the relics stored in the shrine of the upper chapel. It is said to contain 22 relics of Christ including the fragments of the Holy Cross and the Crown of Thorns. The Crown of Thorns used to be displayed until the revolution where it was melted down. The rest of the relics now reside in the treasury of the Notre-Dame cathedral.
The rose window above the entrance of the upper chapel is the only later addition, is a perfect example of the style termed Flamboyant Gothic that is meant to represent flames. It is read in a ‘S’ shaped manner from the centre and outward.
This place was turned into a prison during the French revolution. It housed hundreds of prisoners waiting execution on the guillotine at various locations around Paris. Interestingly enough, prisoners were allowed to buy comforts for their last remaining days. A standard cell would have hay for the prisoners to sleep on. Those who want a bit more comfort could opt for a cell with another inmate with the comforts of a bed and pillow at a small fortune. If your family was rich, then you could afford a cell all to yourself, with a bed, desk, candle and some writing material.
*Talk about prison standards!
This is where Marie Antoinette lived for months before she was beheaded – and probably why the Conciergerie is known for. Her cell was rather plushly furnished, spacious and even had guards within her cell watching her every move.
Métro, Line 4 : Cité
RER station, Line C : Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame
(on the Left Bank; has an exit to the square in front of the Cathedral)
View the gallery for more photographs.