The facade of Notre-Dame deserves a visit in itself. A kind of stony Bible, it’s populated with a thousand figures. Your welcomer will decipher for you the most important, point out the King’s face hidden among saints and explain the meaning of this bandaged eyed woman. And, as usual in France, it will be question of cut heads and unhoped for archaeological finds.
The church’s inner space owes a lot to restorations. In a way, Notre-Dame is a Gothic cathedral… from the 19th century. Its most genuine parts doubtless are the stained-glasses of its three wide Rose windows. Stand at the crossroad between nave and choir and look up. If you’re not submerged by Beauty… look again! The sun makes the blue, red and purplish tones glitter on the paved venerable floor. Such an experience tells better than any word the mystic sense medieval people granted to Light.
You are already amazed? Well, hold on! This was only the beginning.
Then, your welcomer will drive you to the Holy Chapel, a few hundred meters away. Enclosed in the Law Court precinct, the chapel is not easy to find. You will enter into the Kings of France’s personal sanctuary. They came here to worship the relics of the Passion of the Christ… and maybe to be worshipped themselves. Such distinguished relics needed a luxurious case. The walled Lower Chapel will emphasize the shock you’ll feel once in the Upper Shrine. It is not a building, it’s a cage, open to light by its 1,000 m² stained-glass windows. Two thirds of them are authentic and they’re 800 years old! Quite fresh, aren’t they? And one the best-preserved array of medieval colored craft in Europe.
More than 1,100 little sketches tell episodes of the Bible, life of saints … and achievements of kings. Notice how numerous are the fleur-de-lis and crown patterns within sculpted scenes. This holy chapel is also a royal shrine. This artistic success is simultaneously a successful political act. King Saint-Louis (1214-1270) was for sure a champion of Christianity. He could have claimed to be King of propaganda, as well. The Holy Chapel stained glass book is a kind of huge commercial in favor of the French kingdom. An advertisement made of Light and Faith. Intangible so eternally viable.