Despite being the birthplace of Paris, these two neighbouring islands, embraced by the arms of the Seine, are very different. On the Île de la Cité, amid a flurry of uniforms and lawyers’ gowns, you go from one historic site to another: place Dauphine, the Conciergerie, Sainte-Chapelle, Hôtel-Dieu, Notre-Dame… The Pont Saint-Louis marks the boundary – often with music – beyond which lies the tranquility of sumptuous mansion houses. A refuge for artists and poets, the Île Saint-Louis is also a haven for gourmets judging by the profusion of restaurants, cafés, ice-cream makers and confectioners, whose tempting windows line the rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Île.
The Saint Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle was built during the second half of 13th Century by Louis IX, the future Saint Louis, to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. Adorned with a unique collection of fifteen glass panels and a large rose window forming a veritable wall of light, Sainte-Chapelle is a gem of French gothic architecture.
In 1239, after two years of negotiations, Louis IX bought Christ’s crown of thorns from Beaudoin II, the Emperor of Constantinople, for a considerable sum. In 1241 he acquired some more relics from Byzantium and decided to build a monument worthy of such treasure, within the Palais de la Cité itself.
As well as its sumptuous windows, Sainte-Chapelle was decorated with wall paintings, which were faithfully restored in 19th Century, and carvings of a remarkable finesse and variety. The splendor of its architecture and décor and the ceremony attached to the worship of its relics had a marked influence on all artistic and liturgical creativity until the 16th Century.
In the heart of Paris, the Cite Island has been inhabited since the Roman. As the religious and political center of France for centuries, it retains splendid buildings with among them three marvels: the Notre-Dame cathedral, the Conciergerie prison and the Sainte-Chapelle holy chapel, the shrine of Christ's thorn crown. It also has the Quai des Orfèvres police bureau, famous for taking care of criminal affairs.