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Architecture mirroring character at Saint Germain en Laye

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 27, 2022

📍 🇫🇷 Architecture mirroring character at Saint Germain en Laye

King Louis IX, a.k.a. Saint Louis (1214-1270 CE) commissioned the chapel at his favourite residence, the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle in 1238. Eager to outshine his predecessor, King Philippe Auguste (1165-1223 CE), Louis IX launched the construction of this chapel to test the limits of architecture. His goal was to build a higher and lighter chapel, by carving through the thick walls of the old building for stunning stained glass windows.

Not just that, but the reinforced external buttresses allowed this elegant chapel to remain stable and to reach new heights. Described by French historian Henri Focillon as "...the charm of an experiment with the poetry of an aerial Gothic ship," the Saint-Germain-en-Laye chapel served as a prototype for Louis IX's infamous Sainte-Chapelle in Paris whose construction began a few years later.

The chapel established an architectural style that probably took on the King’s own mentality & physical appearance:

“Louis was very tall and thin, his figure described as being bowed by fasting and mortification. Some of his earthier contemporaries were not impressed by his excessive piety, which extended to washing the feet of his nobles, and on occasion they jeered at him for being ‘king of priests’ rather than of France…” (Horne).

Further on in France’s history, far from this expression of piety, Saint Germain would become a place of royal parties and theater plays under Louis XIV - the Sun King (1643-1715 CE).

Another century. Another story.

____ Sources ____

>> Jacques Le Goff, “Saint Louis”, 1996
>> Alistair Horne, “Seven Ages of Paris”, 2002

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Saint Germain en Laye
13th CE