>Travel Pictures

Just down to road from Notre Dame, on the Ile de Cite, Ste. Chappelle is a church hemmed in on all sides by the Palais de Justice. Built for the highest of purposes - legitimizing a king's tenuous hold on power - it is a celebration of architectural beauty and expression

The gargoyles on Notre Dame get all the credit in Paris, but these hanging off the side of St. Chappelle are no slouchers. Pointing off in all directions, these functional waterspouts are a mix of fantastic creatures that look really cool close up.

Entering on the ground floor, the glint of gold leaf assails the senses. Built by King Louis IX (later St. Louis)  in the early 1200s to house holy artifacts, the church had to be richly decorated because of the sanctity of its contents. The emblems on the pillars alternate between the fleur-de-lil of the French royal family and the castle that symbolized the Spanish Castille family, one of whom he married.

The real treasure of the church, however, is to be found on the second floor, where 13 panels of stained glass tell Biblical stories. The impression is of being inside a room constructed entirely of light, as the supporting buttresses are so narrow compared to the mosaics. Words (especially mine) are insufficient to describe the overwhelming beauty. There are benches to sit on and read the explanatory descriptions of each of the panels - a great way to spend a couple of hours!

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