Sainte Chapelle is hardly a hidden secret in Paris, with its 13th century stained glass walls, its ornate carvings and gold tracery, but the little chapel was hardly crowded when I stopped in one Sunday afternoon. Perhaps its overshadowed by it’s much larger and more famous neighbor, Notre Dame Cathedral–a pity, this is not a place to be skipped.
Saint Chapelle was built as a chapel to the Capetian kings, whose castle dominated the little island in the Seine during the medieval period. They decorated it richly and filled it with Christian relics from around the world, creating a little treasure house to which the king could pass freely for worship (or perhaps more likely, for gloating in the splendor he created). It embodies the glory of rayonnant styles in Europe, defined not by breathaking scale as were high gothic cathedrals, but instead by lightness, illumination, and color. Today this building is a testament to the incredible craftmanship and artistry of the middle ages, and boasts some of the finest and most complete stained glass to be found in Europe.