Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – magic at La Sainte-Chapelle
La Sainte-Chapelle is one of the true jewels of Paris that’s easy to miss, given everything else the city offers. But there are many reasons to see it, primarily of course, the stained-glass windows.
We had it on our list of “must see” this time. When we got there in the morning, we noticed a sign that announced there would be a concert that night in La Sainte-Chapelle of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. So we thought that rather than pay admission to tour the church (that’s something to remember, a few churches charge for tours, most others like Notre Dame are free), we would go to the concert and experience the church that way.
I have to say, that I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to classical music, but find that every time I go to a concert, I enjoy it. But even I knew some of Four Seasons, so it was an easy decision.
Tickets were available at a café across the street. So, we got the tickets and came back that evening for the concert. Here’s another thing we found out – they are prompt with the times. The time on the ticket said 7:30. We arrived at about 7:10 to find the church virtually full. We got seats in the second last row.
But it didn’t matter. First off, sitting behind us was a gentleman and his friend. He seemed to be a very knowledgeable concert goer and was mentioning to his friend that in churches like this he likes to sit at the back. He liked the sound better. OK, good enough for him, good enough for us.
As you can see from the pictures, this is an awe-inspiring church. You marvel at the architecture. And of course the windows do exactly what they’re intended to – hold your attention, make you look to the heavens, and if you knew how to read them, tell you the stories of the Bible.
A few facts – La Sainte-Chapelle was consecrated in 1248 and was originally in the centre of the courtyard of the royal palace behind fortified walls. The juxtaposition of the palace right next to the church is no accident – the king right next to God. The palace, ramparts and other buildings are gone, but the church remains, today attached to the Ministry of Defense.
The other thing, and I can’t help saying this with a smile, the original reason for the popularity of this church was that the king who had it built, King Louis IX, had acquired at great expense “relics of Christ” including the Crown of Thorns from Baldwin II, the Latin emperor at Constantinople. It was relics such as these (robes, other garments, pieces of the cross, etc) that became the reason that many believers made great pilgrimages to these churches. Hmmm. There are numerous stories of churches in France burning to the ground (often due to wood in the roof hit by lightning), but somehow the relics were always saved. Of course, every bishop knew that no relics meant no pilgrims which in turn meant no income. And bishops were used to living a very royal life, much of which was funded by the pilgrims. So, “original relics” were always at hand.
The concert, featuring a quintet of violins and cellos was quite wonderful. We just let ourselves get carried away with the music. A little over an hour long, which was perfect. In the pictures you can see the light lights on. Once the music was about to start they were turned off, so all you had was the early evening spring sun pouring in through the windows.
If you’re going to Paris, seeing a concert in a church, especially La Sainte-Chapelle, should be on your list. It’s a singular experience. Next time, a concert at Notre Dame or Saint Sulpice.