The Medieval church of the thirteenth century exerted a strong social
force. The concept of the "double-edged Sword" defined secular as
well as ecclesiastic authority as united in God's Work. The theory
of the State moved toward the concept Divine Right Monarchy, or at least,
the blessing of secular authority through religious structure and ritual.
The world of heaven was conceived as arranged in a hierarchical order,
mirrored in the hierarchical structure of the state. Application
of these ideas were made throughout Europe, but nowhere more successfully
than by France’s king Louis IX. Louis was given the relic of Christ's
Crown of Thorns by the Emperor of Constantinople in exchange for military
aid defending the Byzantine Empire against Muslim invaders. The Papal
letter of authorization stated to Louis that "Christ has crowned you with
his crown of thorns." The King constructed a royal chapel as a monumental
reliquary for this prize. The decorative programs illustrate continuity
of Old Testament Kingship, Christ's Apostles, and France's monarchy, conflating
them into a single, unbroken line of authority. .
1. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. View of the chapel to the right with grand gallery, state buildings, and royal residence attached. Sketched lightly in the background is the cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris.
2. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. View of the chapel from the southwest.
3. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. Detail of south buttresses (photo Raguin).
4. Reliquary of St. Taurin, 13th century, Church of St. Taurin, Evreux, France.
5. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. Interior showing chancel and stained glass windows. The richness of the stained glass, sculpture, enamel paint, and gold ornaments can be seen as a way of constructing a reliquary “turned outside in” for the Crown of Thorns.
6. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. central panel of stained glass in window of Christ’s Passion, directly behind the shrine of relics. The depiction of the Passion (a suffering God) as a central image in a church was most unusual. After the model of the Saint-Chapelle, it became a standard representation.
7. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. Raised platform that once contained the relics. Angels holding the Crown of Thorns decorate the arch of the platform.
8.. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. Side wall, polychrome statue of an Apostle.
9. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. View of side wall, arcade with double lancets surmounted by quatrefoils containing enamel scenes of saints. Niche probably for high ranking individuals.
10. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. Plan of windows. From left to right (north to south) Old Testament beginning the Genesis, ending with window of the south west telling the story of the Finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena and the reception of the Crown of Thorns by Louis IX.
11. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. Window of King David
12. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. Window of King David, detail of David playing the harp before Saul. (photo Raguin)
13. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. Window of Judith (Book of Judith). Judith with the Head of Holofernes. Gold fleur-de-lis of the Captetian dynasty (Louis IX) in decorative background.
14. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. Window of Judith. Holofernes armies, panel now in the Philadelphia Art Museum (photo Raguin)
15. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, 1243-48. Window of Esther (Book of Esther). Esther before King Assuerus. Castles of Castile, emblem of the lineage of Blanche of Castile, mother of Louis IX.
16. Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, about 1850. Recreation
of windows showing reception of the Crown of Thorns Louis IX and his brother
Charles d’Artois, carry litter with the relics.