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The Gothic chapel of Sainte-Chapelle


The Gothic chapel of Sainte-Chapelle
The Sainte-Chapelle, or ‘Holy Chapel’, was commissioned by King Louis IX of France more than 770 years ago to house his most prized possessions – what was believed to be the authentic ‘crown of thorns’ worn by Jesus Christ at his crucifixion, as well as fragments of the Holy Cross. The king bought these items and sought to build an appropriately elaborate church to display them in.
A stunning example of medieval architecture; nothing like this had ever been constructed before. The fact it was built between around 1241 and 1248 is even more incredible considering Notre Dame took more than 200 years to build from 1163. The church walls act as frames for the 15 immense stained glass panels. The stained glass mainly depicts famous Bible stories, including parts from the Old Testament. Also shown is the history of the holy relics, from their discovery by Saint Helen to their eventual arrival in the French Kingdom. Restorations of the stained glass in the 19th century remained faithful to the original designs, and further work is underway today to protect it from deterioration.
When we think of medieval architecture, many of us think of dark, dingy buildings. The Sainte-Chapelle defies this idea, with a majestic design that embraces the power of light to create a truly breathtaking church.

Producing stained glass
Making stained glass to a high standard is much easier now than it would have been during the Sainte-Chapelle’s construction in the 13th century. Throughout this period, glass factories were located in areas with a good supply of silica such as sand, an essential ingredient for the mix.
The overall process was much the same then as it is today; first you mix the silica, potash and lime along with a metallic oxide, which provides the colour. This could be copper oxide, which can produce blue, green or ruby colours depending on the conditions. These ingredients are then heated in a furnace to around 1,371 degrees Celsius (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit), creating molten glass. This stage was problematic in medieval times, as creating this heat with the techniques available was a lengthy process and hard to maintain. The molten glass can then be rolled into thin sheets and left to cool before cutting to the desired size.
Producing stained glass