Paris in October – part 18 – Stained Glass at Ste Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle is the royal chapel on the Ile de la Cité built in the 13th century as part of the then-royal palace. It was conceived and designed to house King Louis’ collection of Christian relics, including the purported spear of Longinus and the Crown of Thorns. Over the centuries, especially during the French Revolution, it suffered depredations, including the destruction and/or removal for sale of chunks of its stained-glass windows. In the later 19th century, the windows were restored. Today, a major, 10-year project to clean, stabilize and protect the windows is nearing completion. You can see some of the scaffolding in the chapel in my photos.

Today, you enter the chapel through the lower level, which houses a few video exhibits and the gift shop. Even on the lower level, the stained glass windows are beautiful:

Window, Lower Level, Ste. Chapelle
Window, Lower Level, Ste. Chapelle

To enter the main chapel on the second level, you ascend a dark, narrow spiral stair, and then emerge into a room bursting with light and color. Directly above and behind you is the rose window.

Rose Window, Ste. Chapelle
Rose Window, Ste. Chapelle

To your front is the main altar:

Altar, Ste. Chapelle
Altar, Ste. Chapelle

Another view of the windows and vault above the altar:

Windows, Ceiling Vaults, Ste. Chapelle Altar
Windows, Ceiling Vaults, Ste. Chapelle Altar

On the side walls there are statues of saints:

Saint Statue, Ste. Chapelle
Saint Statue, Ste. Chapelle

I realize I’ve got two pictures of the same saint statue. I was trying to capture the different looks of the statue as the light changes when you move around him. Can you imagine the effect of seeing a place like this in the 13th century, when even today to our glitz-and-glamour-jaded points of view it is breathtaking? This would have outshone the contemporary Saint Peter’s in Rome! (today’s Saint Peter’s Basilica of course makes this look paltry, but that is a Renaissance/Baroque confection re-imagined by some of the greatest artists and architects the world has ever seen. This is a late-Medieval Gothic chapel).

Saint Statue, Ste. Chapelle
Saint Statue, Ste. Chapelle

Looking up at the ceiling vaults and the side windows presents this view:

Side Windows, Ste. Chapelle
Side Windows, Ste. Chapelle

Again, all these were taken with my trusty Rolleiflex, and hand-held. The film is Kodak Portra 800 – until I tried some of this recent version of Portra 800, I never would have thought an 800 speed film would be this sharp and grainless, or the colors so vivid. In the past, films above 400 speed, even in medium format, had obvious grain and lacked the same contrast, sharpness and vivid color of their slower speed counterparts. Kodak has banished these shortcomings in Portra 800. Even though it’s pricey (about $10/roll), this is one of the reasons I hope Kodak manages to stay in the color film manufacturing business for many years to come.

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