A Brief Description of Stained Glass Windows of Paris, Sainte Chapelle

By Aashima

Nothing can prepare you for the feeling you get once you step inside Sainte Chapelle, which will send you to a heavenly abode, given its interiors.

The small chapel near Notre Dame is one of the world’s finest examples of Gothic or Renaissance architecture.

Sainte Chapelle’s stained glass is one of the primary reasons tourists visit this chapel-turned-museum.

But before getting into details about the magnificent stained glass, let’s know how to get the most out of your visit to Sainte Chapelle.

Read to learn more!

Sainte-Chapelle Stained Glass History

Louis IX of France ordered the construction of the Sainte Chapelle in 1242. 

The religious king known for his virtue had fought two battles and won a massive collection of relics from them.

After this, he also purchased the Crown Of Thrones and other vital relics but needed help deciding where to store them.

So he had a holy chapel built to honor these religious relics. That’s when Sainte Chapelle came into existence.

The construction of the stained glass windows of the Sainte Chapelle was for innovative and creative purposes. They represent the Gothic element of the chapel.

Also, the stained glass windows were a way to help the ordinary people of Paris connect with the Bible more intricately.

The more you know, the higher your urge to visit this place. 
The following article on the History of Sainte Chapelle will give you a complete overview of the chapel.

Sainte Chapelle 15 Stained Glass Windows Guide

The Sainte Chapelle’s 13th-century windows have historic panels filled with figures depicting royalty.

You will find several representations of coronation scenes, backgrounds, and borders decorated with Fleurs- de lis and Castilian castles.

With King Louis IX wearing a crown of Christ, battle scenes evoke the king’s mission before Chapelle’s purification.

Along with the scenes and stories from the Bible, the Sainte Chapelle stained glasses have more meaning than just being windows.

These historical scenes of importance may intimidate you to some extent, given their importance.

But don’t worry!

Even if you do not read the windows, you can still enjoy the colorful, bright light they cast in the chapel.

The light crossing the biblical message will remind you of the divine origin while doing what it usually does, being a window!

To shed more light on the meaning of the Sainte Chapelle stained glass, we have listed all the details for you.

The Technique Used During Construction

There are 15 stained glass windows in the Sainte Chapelle, each measuring 5.4 m in height and 4.25 m in width.

They comprise 1,113 little glasses, most dating from the 13th century.

As you may notice, there are five colors in the windows – red and green (from copper), blue (from cobalt), purple (from Manganese), and yellow (from antimony).

While the details in the glasses, such as the facial expressions and folds, were done using the grisaille technique.
Book your tickets to the chapel and see it for yourself.

The architects used powdered glass and iron oxide diluted in water and vinegar.

The mixture came up to the glasses with the help of a paintbrush and was then fired at 600 °C to fix the grisaille.

The pieces were then connected scene by scene and held together with the strips of channeled lead.

You will also notice that the finished section of the stained glass windows of the Sainte Chapelle is small to ensure they do not succumb to their weight.

13th-Century Extensive Collection

These 15 windows were built in the 13th and 15th centuries, making them one of the world’s most extensive collections of stained glass.

The windows of the upper chapel depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible.

It starts with Genesis, the creation of Earth and Heaven, Adam and Eve, life and death, and the resurrection of Christ.

Furthermore, it showcases the Apocalypse, also known as the Final Judgement, seen on the Rose Window.

The 1,113 Biblical Figures

If you notice closely, the stained glass windows of the Sainte Chapelle have five colors: blue, red, green, purple, and yellow.

As you enter the Upper Chapel and are in the presence of the 15 glass masterpieces.

Out of the 15 windows, 14 depict the 1,113 biblical figures telling us the story of the Bible from Genesis to the Resurrection of Jesus.

To get the sequence right, you will have to start from the left, from the Book of Genesis.

This follows the Passion of Christ on the forward wall above the shrine to the right side, where you will find the Book of Esther and Kings.

The last and the 15th Sainte Chapelle glass windows depict the history of the relics brought by King Louis IX.

It depicts the discovery of relics, their miracles, and their journey to their final destination, Sainte Chapelle.

Biblical Books Mentioned

Observing the Sainte Chapelle stained glass is like reading the Bible.

People in the 13th century were not all literate.

Although many people go to church every Sunday to listen to the priest, tell stories from the Bible,

It was still different from reading the holy book by yourself.

To solve this problem, the stained-glass windows of Paris, Sainte-Chapelle were made for the illiterate.

The people could easily read the beautiful pictorial depictions of the Bible visually.

The biblical books mentioned on the stained glass (according to their sequence) are:

  • Left Side: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, The Book of Joshua
  • Chorus (starting from left to right): 
  1. The Book of Judges
  2. The Book of Isaiah and the Jesse Tree
  3. Saint John the Evangelist and the Childhood of Christ, The Passion of Christ
  4. Saint John the Baptist and the Book of Daniel
  5. The Book of Ezekiel
  6. The Books of Jeremiah and Tobias
  • Right side (ending at the porch): The Books of Judith and Job, The Book of Esther, The Book of Kings, and the history of relics of the Passion.

Number of times the Stained Glass Windows of Paris Sainte Chapelle were Restored

Chapelle’s stained glass windows have been replaced several times.

The Sainte Chapelle Rose Window’s stained glass restoration happened in 1495 and again in 2016.

Also, the upper chapel’s lateral stained glass underwent a significant restoration in 1765.

Over the years, the chapel has tried to protect and maintain the windows from damage.

For example, the windows were removed during World War I and World War II, along with the restoration of lancets in the 1990s.

The chapel received a massive donation from the Danish Velux Foundations and was able to restore the northern windows and rose windows in 2007.

There is also an exciting thing about the modern renovations that promises to safeguard the windows for about 100 years.

The architecture of this chapel is surely a beauty to behold.
So, read our article on Sainte Chapelle architecture to learn all its intricate details.

Placing the translucid copy of the glasses on the outside of windows protects them from pollution.

Plus, this double glazing was heat molded onto the stained windows, which makes it harder to distinguish from the outside.

So that visitors still get the effect of the original Sainte Chapelle stained glass from the inside and the outside too.

The Best Time to see the Stained Glass Windows of Sainte-Chapelle 

The Sainte Chapelle stained glasses have a certain charm that entices every visitor.

To get the best experience, we have listed the various ways to observe the glass windows.

Photography

Sunset is the best time to see the stained glass in all its glory.

The orange light blazing through the windows beautifully brings out the illustrations’ color.

Sunsets are also an excellent time for photography, as using flash is not prohibited inside the chapel.

Avoid crowds

Although incredible for photography, sunsets are also one of the most crowded times in Sainte Chapelle.

To avoid crowds, visit the chapel early in the morning so you can easily interpret the glass windows without any disturbances.

Also, visit it on a sunny day; if the weather outside is rainy or cloudy, the view through the windows will be unclear.

A Different Experience

For a unique experience, you can attend the Sainte Chapelle concert.

The classical concerts with renowned artists in the chapel’s spectacular setting will be your trip’s highlight.

You will also find the stained glass windows of Paris, Sainte Chapelle devoid of crowds.

So you can grab this opportunity to observe the beautiful windows freely.

Best Way To See The Sainte Chapelle Stained Glasses

After knowing the best time, learning about the best way to visit the Sainte Chapelle stained glass windows is essential.

The best way to see it will be by reading and observing the windows to grasp their meaning.

To do this, you can roam freely around the chapel without restrictions.

Worry not, as the Chapel itself will guide you to read the Bible illustrations in the proper order.

To get the sequence right, you must read them from left to right and bottom to top.

The exception is the window telling the history of the Passion relics. This window should be read alternating between left to right and right to left.

We recommend that you follow the order to enjoy the entire experience.

Roam around and study the 1113 depictions of biblical figures and understand the stories from the Bible like never before.

FAQs:

What do the stained glass windows of the Sainte-Chapelle depict?

The Sainte Chapelle stained glasses depict the story of Jesus from Genesis to Resurrection.

With 15 windows, it stands out with the most extensive collection in the world.

About 600 square meters of windows are in the upper chapel of the building.

What is the stained glass in the Sainte-Chapelle?

The stained glass windows in the upper chapel are windows made for the natural light to fill the chapel.

These Sainte Chapelle stained glasses consist of five colors red, blue, green, purple, and yellow.

Each window depicts 1,113 separate biblical narratives from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

The chapel has also gone through several restorations.

How many windows does Sainte-Chapelle have?

Sainte Chapelle has about 15 stained glass windows.

These masterpieces have about 1,113 biblical depictions from the holy book of the bible and the journey of the relics on their way to the chapel.

Out of 15, 14 windows are from the 13th century, while the restoration of the last one was done in the 15th century.

Who made the stained glass windows of Paris, Sainte-Chapelle?

Steinhell was the designer of All the Stained Windows during the 19th-century restoration.

These included the 15 windows of the upper chapel and the rose window.

The lower chapel has a doorway to the sacristy on the left lateral traverse and could not have a window.

So the 13th-century mural of the Annunciation is now there as a decoration.

What makes Sainte Chapelle unique?

It is a holy place, representing the idea of the king claiming the same authority as religious authority.

Through this building, the king asserted his power over the church, which was quite significant during the olden times.

During the medieval era, the church and its leaders were the people’s first and last leaders.

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Featured Image: Demerzel21 from Getty Images (Canva)

Aashima (1)
About the author

Aashima is an avid traveler who seeks out thrills and lives a simple, peaceful life. Bright clear skies are her calling.