Monthly Archives: December 2011

Sainte-Chapelle

This is one of my favorite treasures in Paris. I have been a handful of times, and it never fails to awe me.

A year ago, I was in Paris under the pretense of an academic program (okay, so we actually did do a lot of work, but that didn’t slow down our fun). A professor suggested that I visit the Sainte-Chapelle, and I had never been. I went with a couple of friends on our first free day, and here’s what I wrote in my private blog:

First, we went right across the bridge to the Sainte-Chapelle. It’s in the Palais de la Cité (or what’s left of it), which was the royal residence and seat of power from the 10th to 14th century. Louis the IX ordered the tiny chapel to be built for the use of the royal family. He spent twice as much money on the relics (including some of the Crown of Thorns) as he did on building the chapel. We went in and walked around, and I was thinking, ‘okay, this place is nice, but it’s not that great. It’s not in great condition or anything, and the stained glass windows are not as impressive as advertised.’

I was just about to leave the chapel, thinking that my Professor had led me astray, when I saw a sign on the way out in the corner that said “Haute Chapelle” with an arrow pointing to a staircase in the corner. I thought, ‘why not’ so I went up the stairs. Wow. Oh my gosh. I stood there for a few minutes just staring up and circling. It is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Ever. Our best guess is that the chapel is at least 3 stories high with gorgeous intricate stained glass windows covering the walls. Like, 50 feet high stained  glass windows.
That was my post from over a year ago, and now that I’ve been a few more times, the stained glass still has the same effect on me. There’s just so much of it! And it’s so beautiful! There are 1,113 biblical scenes depicted on the 15 stained glass windows, and they start on the left with Genesis and go all the way around the room, finishing with a huge rose window that shows the Apocalypse. It’s breathtaking. The building and windows are from the 13th century. I was surprised to learn that about 70% of the windows are still the originals! They’ve done a lot of work to restore and preserve them.
In the lower chapel, there used to be beautiful statues, but I believe that a lot of them were victims of the revolution. However, you can go over to the Musée Cluny to see the what’s left of the original, medieval statues. They are still quite impressive!
I cannot recommend this place highly enough, even if you only have a short time in Paris. If you can come on a bright and sunny day, even better. You have to pay to enter (except on the first Sunday of the month), but the price of admission is well worth it. This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. In the summer they host concerts here. That’s on my to-do list.

Musée de la Musique

A few weeks ago, a certain Maestro came to visit me. We had a wonderful time, and one of the highlights of the visit was the best musical museum I’ve ever been to.

Cité de la Musique is not in the center of Paris. It’s way out in the 19th (which seems impossibly far, but is really only a short metro ride from the center—it’s easy to forget how small Paris really is). We trekked out specifically for the museum, and WOW! It was worth the trip.  The entire complex is situated on the Parc Villette, which is a very popular area. I’ll have to come back in the spring when it’s warmer and check out the park. Anyway, there are theaters and performance halls, and in the midst of it all is a museum dedicated to music.

You have to pay to enter the museum, but the price includes an audioguide (available in English if you ask!). The building itself is new and very modern and nice. They have instruments on display from ancient times until today from all over the world. The collection is organized by time period, and each floor houses one century, from the XVI century to XXI century.

You enter the exhibit, and you see some incredible instruments. They are beautiful, sometimes strange, and sometimes completely different from today’s instruments. You can listen to the audioguide to hear about the history of the instruments you’re looking at, but my favorite part was that each exhibit had another number you could enter to just listen to the instruments. They had recordings of many many instruments that you could listen to, and it was so great to see these interesting instruments and actually hear the music they make.

The museum also has concerts everyday for visitors. They have workshops for kids where they can conduct musicians or play many instruments. The whole museum is very kid-friendly. They have a special audioguide for kids, and books and games and things. The museum hosts master classes for musicians to work on pieces with experts. They have concerts, lessons, and all kinds of other activities.

We could have spent all day in this museum. Unfortunately, I didn’t know it would be so cool until we got there, and it closed just a couple hours after we got there. We rushed through the last half hour, and we still only got to see about half of the museum. We will definitely be coming back.