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Video transcript

[Music] we've walked into the courtyard of what had once been the palace of the king of France and in the center is a jewel box San Chapelle this was the Royal Chapel this is a chapel attached to the Royal Palace for the use of the king and his household but it's much more than that we walked in through the lower Chapel which was used by the Kings household into the upper Chapel which was used by the king by the Queen and by the court in fact there are niches on either side for the king and queen at the far end was a reliquary and this was the whole point of Sasha pal the King San Louie had obtained one of the great relics of Christendom the crown of thorns this was part of the Passion of Christ and of course a crown is symbolic of royalty and this was the Chapel of San Louie also known as King Louie the night sadly we was able to purchase the crown from his cousin who was the Byzantine Emperor for an enormous sum and I think it's important to just step back and think about what that crown signified the faithful believe that the crown had touched Christ had made him bleed and the idea of the relic is central it collapses time it brings Christ into our immediate experience now relics were incredibly important in medieval culture they performed miracles extremely ornate boxes were produced in order to house them and in some ways one can imagine that this entire chapel functions metaphorically as a reliquary for the crown of thorns it said that more than three-quarters of this building is made of glass there's light flooding and it's a light that is golden and red and blue and purple this is a crowning achievement of Gothic architecture The Lancet windows soar upward pointing our eyes towards heaven and typically we see four part rib to groin vaults and bundled cowl nets that make the masonry feel more delicate in fact a masonry has been reduced to almost nothing really just mullions that is slender vertical forms that separate the windows but we're here in the 13th century beyond the high gothic a period that our historians call the rayou not where we have this emphasis on thin line and the total opening up of the walls to Windows which was always a goal of Gothic architecture but here taken to such an extreme over the West door we see this enormous Rose window now Rose windows were a typical feature of Gothic architecture but during this very or non period the stone tracery that make up the stained-glass window becomes thinner and more attenuated and more complex now the windows are not just beautiful they tell stories each window refers to either an old or New Testament story or a story referring to the acquisition of the relic we see a window representing the moment when Christ has the crown of thorns placed on his head the crown that by tradition was held in this church this is dense with imagery in addition to the stained glass windows we have sculptures of the Apostles that stand between the windows we have quatrefoil 's that depict scenes of martyrdom and there are also angels and the spandrels many of whom hold crowns some swing censors a reminder of what this face would have been like when it was still used as a church so imagine this space filled with music filled with the voice of the priest filled with the smoke of the incense with colored lights streaming through it is this beautiful mystical space in addition to there being so much imagery so much of the surfaces are painted there are reds and golds and blues there's almost nothing that would remind us that this is a building made of stone this completely open interior space with so much glass seems absolutely miraculous it is a testament to the sophistication of gothic architects during this late period there seems like there's not nearly enough stone to hold this building up let's go outside and take a look at how this was achieved we've walked out of the chapel and what strikes me is that the building really stands alone it's tall and it's thin but here we are in the middle of the Ile de la Cite a a small island in the middle of modern Paris and in the 13th century at the very time that so Chappell was built Paris was becoming the capital that we know it as today we can see how the building structure works from the outside the actual responsibility for bearing the great weight of the stone vaulting is carried by the buttresses which we can see on the exterior all of that weight was brought outside but the buttresses are kept fairly small in order to ensure that light can enter in the windows which creates another problem the lateral force of the roof is pushing outward and these buttresses on their own wouldn't be enough to support the roof there was an additional structural element that was added to help ensure the stability of the building there are iron rods that act like a kind of girdle to counter the thrust of the vaulting down and out some art historians have pointed out that the exterior top of the building looks rather like a crown if we look up toward the top of San Chapelle we see Gables and in-between The Gables those buttresses but the buttresses have on top of them these tall pinnacles and we almost read that alternation of gables and pinnacles as the points on all crown and in fact the phrase Sant rappel is a specific type of chapel that is a chapel within the palace grounds and that holds a relic you