La Sainte-Chapelle (French pronunciation:Â [la st apl], The Holy Chapel) is the only surviving building of the Capetian royal palace on the Ile de la Cite in the heart of Paris, France. It was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion Relics, including the Crown of Thorns - one of the most important relics in medieval Christendom. Begun some time after 1239 and consecrated on the 26th of April 1248, the Sainte-Chapelle is considered among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. Although damaged during the French revolution and heavily restored in the 19th century, it retains one of the most extensive in-situ collections of 13th century stained glass anywhere in the world.
As well as serving as a place of worship, the Sainte-Chapelle played an important role in the political and cultural ambitions of King Louis and his successors. With the imperial throne at Constantinople occupied by a mere Count of Flanders and with the Holy Roman Empire in uneasy disarray, Louis' artistic and architectural patronage helped to position him as the central monarch of western Christendom, the Sainte-Chapelle fitting in to a long tradition of prestigious palace chapels. Just as the Emperor could pass privately from his palace into the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, so now Louis could pass directly from his palace into the Sainte-Chapelle. More importantly, the two-story palace chapel had obvious similarities to Charlemagne's palatine chapel at Aachen (built 792-805) - a parallel that Louis was keen to exploit in presenting himself as a worthy successor to the first Holy Roman Emperor.