In 1248, nearly 800 years ago, Louis IX of France finished the construction of La Sainte Chapelle. Amazingly, it took just 7 years to build, compared to almost 200 years of building for Notre Dame.
La Sainte Chapelle is most well-known for its truly amazing stained glass windows. On the upper floor of the chapel, the columns between the windows are merely there to support the intricate stained glass.
This evening (Monday), after our first full day in Paris, we went to a classical music concert in the chapel. It was an experience that played tricks with my mind.
On the one hand, I marveled at the creativity of humankind, of the beauty that is expressed through architecture, glass, stone, and paint. The music that soared upwards to the arches and filled every nook and cranny of the space was equally beautiful. Creative expression was a reminder, to me, of one way that humans are created "in the image of God."
I gazed up to the blue ceiling decorated with golden stars as the string quartet played Mozart, Schubert, Vivaldi, and Pachelbel, and wondered, on the other hand, how we humans, capable of such amazing expressions of the deepest longings of the soul, can also inflict terrible pain and destruction upon other humans. The dichotomy baffles my mind.
I also wondered at the justice of spending so very much wealth on the construction of such a chapel designed not only to hold the supposed relic of Christ's crown of thorns, but also to consolidate political and religious power, at a time when the gap between the few very rich and the many very poor was immense.
In some ways, when I look at today's world, I see that the rich still take advantage of the poor, and wonder that so little has changed.
But most of my time was spent in wonder and amazement that I, an ordinary woman of the 21st century, could sit in this jewel box of a chapel constructed by an absolute monarch of the 13th century and listen to music composed between those centuries. It was a beautiful gift.