The Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

La Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel)

Restored by Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc

1841-67

4 Boulevard du Palais, Paris

[The interior]

This church, originally built to house important religious relics, inspired and influenced Sir George Gilbert Scott and other major Victorian architects. Viollet-le-Duc, under whose direction it was restored in the mid-Victorian period, was as influential in France as Pugin and Ruskin were in England, and his work on the church attracted a good deal of attention from outside France. Of particular interest is the French architect's view that the Gothic style was "defined by its structural innovations," which he saw as coming from "the perfect equipoise of its skeletal components." This, he believed, "was produced by the precisely executed interdependence of all parts." The ribs or vaults were of prime importance to him, along with the "piers and buttresses supported by the foundations"; on the other hand, the "walls and webbing were infilling, to keep bad weather out and warmth or coolness in," and not essential to the skeleton itself. According to Violett-le-Duc, perfect "equilibration" was what made the building dynamic and gave it the feel of "a living organism" (Reynolds 39-40).

These experiments had a great deal of impact on his contemporaries too, including Scott, who (for example) used iron instead of stone pillars in the new King's College Chapel, London. Scott was also inspired by the general outline of the Sainte-Chapelle, as can be seen from the apsidal structure of St John's College Chapel, Cambridge.