the upper chapel, for which it may have been designed as a foil; certainly, there is a breathtaking contrast in the quality of the respective spaces. The official access to the upper chapel, which was dedicated to the Holy Crown and the Holy Cross and reserved for the use of the sovereign, was by a gallery directly linking it with the royal apartments. Entering through a sculpture-enriched double portal, the visitor is greeted by an explosion of color and light. Fifteen lofty stained-glass windows, rising 65 feet (20 meters) from just above floor level to the gilded arches of the vaults, fill the entire area between the buttresses—in total, 6,600 square feet (620 square meters)—to create a space that has been described as “Gothic architecture at its most daring and successful” and “a cage of Light.” The windows were restored in the nineteenth century after the depredations of the French Revolution. About 65 percent of them date from the thirteenth century; together, they depict more than 1,130 scenes from the Old Testament and the life of Jesus.

St. Chapelle was burned in 1630 and was rebuilt. During the Revolution it stood in danger of demolition but was saved, though damaged. It was then used as an archives store until 1837, but in 1846 a twenty-year restoration program, “almost amounting to renewal,” was initiated. The architects Félix Duban, Jean-Baptiste Lassus, Émile Boeswillwald, and E. E. Viollet-le-Duc replaced the roof and the stair and redecorated the interiors. The building is now a museum.

Further reading

Bony, Jean. 1983. French Gothic Architecture of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Bottineau, Yves. 1967. Notre-Dame de Paris and the Sainte-Chapelle. Chicago: Rand McNally.

Grodecki, Louis. 1975. Sainte-Chapelle. Paris: Caisse nationale des monuments historiques et des sites.

St. Denis Abbey Church

St. Denis, France

The Abbey of St. Denis is situated in a small municipality (now a suburb) of the same name, about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) north of Paris. Its thirty-sixth abbot, Suger (1081–1151), commissioned the present church from about 1140. It is a milestone in the history of architecture because, like Durham Cathedral in England, it has in it the seeds of a new way of building for Europe: the highly inventive structural system that we know as the Gothic. In particular, Suger’s choir at St. Denis, the first application of pointed arches in a major building, marks one aspect of the transition from the Romanesque style, which was quite hobbled by the use of round-headed arches; that is, the transition from wall architecture to framed architecture.

Denis, first bishop of Lutetia, and his missionary companions were martyred in 258, and buried at St. Denis. When the persecutions ended in the fourth century, a small chapel was built that became a popular shrine for pilgrims by the end of the sixth century. The Merovingian king Dagobert founded a Benedictine monastery there in 630, replacing the chapel with a large basilica and enriching the new royal abbey. He also bestowed many rights and privileges on the little town, not least the honor of building his tomb. Eventually, the abbey was to house seventy royal sepulchers. Charlemagne, king of the Franks, commissioned a new church in 750 and much of the earlier building was subsumed. Systemic reforms were introduced by Abbot Hilduin (815–830; ca. 831–840) during his second term of office, and the Abbey of St. Denis, because of the relics it held, grew in significance and prosperity. In about 1127 Suger assumed the position of abbot, to which he had been elected in Rome five years earlier.

Between 1123 and 1127, as adviser to Louis VI (reigned 1108–1137), he was engrossed in affairs of state but soon after he set out to thoroughly reform his monastery, first of all establishing a more rigorous discipline for the monks and dealing with its financial problems. Then he turned to the building. The old abbey church had been completed in 775, and by the middle of the twelfth century it had become dilapidated; from 1135 Abbot Suger initiated an extensive renovation program. His motives have been widely discussed by historians; it is clear that he was moved by religious and esthetic sensibilities, but because St. Denis was the royal abbey (and thus a symbol of royal power), its renovation was also a