Rose Window in Sainte-Chapell, Paris

Sainte-Chapelle Shines Again

It took seven years to restore the glorious windows of the Sainte-Chapelle and cost €9.5 mill. Now they shine in all their former glory

Sainte-Chapelle being restored
Sainte-Chapelle being restored © Centre des Monuments Nationaux

Sainte-Chapelle was commisoned by Saint Louis after he had bought a number of very important relics stemming from the Passion of Christ from the Byzantine emperor. Especially important was the Crown of Thorns, which arrived in Paris in 1239. When the royal chapel was consecrated in 1248, it appeared the architect had succeeded in creating a veritable jewel-box to hold this very precious relic. Part of this aura was due to the magnificent glass paintings, which seemed to soar into the sky.

With more than 750 m2 and 1113 scenes they still tell the story of the chosen people. The cycle starts at the western bay of the north wall with scenes from the Book of Genesis. The next ten windows of the nave follow clockwise with scenes from Exodus, Joseph, Numbers/Leviticus, Joshua/Deuteronomy, Judges, (moving to the south wall) Jeremiah/Tobias, Judith/Job, Esther, David and the Book of Kings. The final window, occupying the westernmost bay of the south wall brings this narrative of sacral kingship right up to date with a series of scenes showing the rediscovery of Christ’s relics, the miracles they performed, and their relocation to Paris in the hands of King Louis himself. In the apse windows feature scenes from the Infancy, Life of John the Baptist and the Passion. The overall message is to exalt the ideal of kingship.

It stands to reason that these paintings were harmed, changed, restored and mixed anew during the next 750 years. Not least the French Revolution caused a grievous destruction. Nevertheless, 2/3 of the windows are original.

In the 1970s, however, it was deemed necessary to restore this magnificent French monument in order to bring it back to its former glory. Finally, a few days ago, the result of the final restoration-project was unveiled to the astonishment of everyone present, who had never seen the edifice without scaffolding and partially under wraps. Indeed a glorious moment!

The primary donation to finish the restoration of the bay-windows has been made by the Danish Company: Velux, which contributed 50% of the expense. The president of the Velux foundation, Lars Khan-Rasmussen, was present at the inauguration, where he committed further funding for another French treasure, the windows at Palais d’Antin. The foundation has earlier on been active in for instance the rebuilding of the Dresden Frauenkirche and is active in a European context, whenever a restoration job touches upon the primary business of the Velux company: to bring daylight and fresh air to people. At the ceremony in Paris on the 20th of May 2015, the Velux Foundation was profusely thanked by the president of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux for its never wavering support and its exemplary way of supporting such a complicated project.

SOURCES:

La Sainte-Chapelle comme vous ne l’avez jamais vue

Les Fondations VELUX dévoilent ce jour le nouveau visage de la Sainte-Chapelle

Atelier Vitrail France

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