Going Gothic in Paris


Continuing on my journey to get acquainted with art in Paris, my travel companions and I explored Gothic architecture in the city. And Paris has no shortage of Gothic-inspired structures. According to Wikipedia, Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Many great cathedrals, abbeys and churches in Europe were built in Gothic architecture and their characteristics are typically pointed arches, buttresses, rose windows, towers, spires and resplendent facades.

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle is a medieval gothic Church and a masterpiece commissioned by the devout Louis IX (the only French King to be canonized as a saint) in the thirteenth century. The church was erected as a shrine for the king’s holy relics of the Passion of Christ which the king had purchased from Emperor Constantinople when he was on his first Crusade in 1239. Apparently Louis IX had paid almost three times more for the holy relics than for the construction of Sainte-Chapelle itself.

Sainte-Chapelle is touted to be the most beautiful church in Paris particularly for its fifteen stained glass windows soaring up to fifty feet high. In spite of its damage in the French Revolution but restored in the mid-nineteenth century, the church still retains extensive collections of thirteenth century stained glass and is the finest in the world.

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Cathedral of Notre Dame

Just walking distance from Sainte-Chapelle and located in the vicinity of Ile de la Cite (the heart of Paris) is Cathedral of Notre Dame. Cathedral of Notre Dame is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and one of the largest and renowned church buildings in the world.

On the outside especially the western facade, the cathedral is magnificent in typical Gothic art with very detailed form of craftsmanship – Biblical scenes elaborately carved on three portals at the entrance of the cathedral – while on the inside, the highlight is the set of three beautiful rose stained glass windows. Although not as spectacular as Sainte-Chapelle’s stained glass windows, Notre Dame’s rose windows remain an important beautiful collection of thirteenth century Gothic art.

Just like Sainte-Chapelle, the cathedral fell victim to the French Revolution – many sculptures and treasures were destroyed or pillaged but thankfully, the cathedral was restored in the mid-nineteenth century.

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