There are some places in the world that you hear about, see photos of and study, but don’t even come close to appreciating until you visit. Sainte-Chappelle was one of those places for me.

My Dad had first told me about it, and I had seen the photos he had taken. His description was “the most impressive place he had ever visited in his life”. That’s a lot to live up to! 



Many years later, my wife and I visited Paris for our Honeymoon, our first trip, and we since revisited again more recently for her 40th Birthday. On both visits I only had one MUST – visit Sainte Chapelle.

Built as a royal chapel in the Gothic Style within the residence of the King of France and completed in 1248 after ten years of construction. It was commissioned by King Louis IX to house his collection of Passion relics that include the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ himself.

The chapel is two stories, the lower, a much simpler and less ornate level used by courtiers, servants and the soldiers of the palace. Sadly, I have witnessed a number of visitors only view the lower level, not even realizing the upper level exists!!

The upper level, accessed by a tiny spiral staircase in the corner of the room, takes you to the royal chapel. This was used to house the sacred relics of Christ still housed in a silver chest under the altar.

The most famous feature of the chapel is, of course, the stained glass. 15 in total, they date to the original 1248 construction with the large rose window added a little later in the 15th century. Thousands of tiny shards of colored glass illustrate the story of the Old and New Testaments of the bible.

When you turn up the spiral stairs and step into the second floor chapel, the light streams through the huge colored windows, and it’s truly breathtaking. I am not a religious person, but I can’t be in awe of the building and the history of this chapel.

I love how the change in light outside totally changes the color and light inside the chapel. As clouds come over in the later afternoon, the whole room took on a much more blue tone.

The chapel, even though large, is difficult to photograph. A wide angle lens is a must to be able to capture the scale and awe inspiring size and color of the room. I used my Leica MP240 with the 21mm Super Elmar lens (See my review HERE!).

You can not bring in a monopod or tripod, so sadly handheld is the only option. The Super Elmar is only a f/3.4 lens, so if you have something faster, this will help a lot. It’s bright, but the stained glass really does cut out a lot of bright outside light. Upping the ISO to something that will still look good when viewed digitally or printed (I like to keep it between ISO 800-1600. I didn’t want too much grain to take over the detail of the glass).

If you find yourself in Paris, and honestly, I would take a trip there just to visit this chapel, you must go to Sainte-Chapelle. It’s just so impressive and awe inspiring and one of those places that you will remember forever.