This summer in Paris, on the morning before we flew home, I took my husband to Sainte-Chapelle, the medieval Gothic chapel on the Île de la Cité, right in the heart of Paris, a few streets over from the Notre Dame.
A friend had brought me to Sainte-Chappelle years before. In the few free hours we had following a conference, it was the only thing I saw in the city on that trip. I climbed the stairs from the lower chapel wearily, still jetlagged. But though half the famous windows were covered for construction, the light exploded across my field of vision with a shock I can still feel in my bones when I remember it.
Fifteen stained glass windows from the thirteenth century ring the room, stretching almost from floor to ceiling—not set into the walls so much as forming them. You can taste the rose light, feel it press your skin. It is glossy, thick with history and memory and the breath of millions of visitors.
With my husband in tow on the last day of our trip, I padded up those stairs again, this time wide awake and ready for the light. In the years since I’d been there, the covered half of the room had been restored and the scaffolding removed, revealing the other half. Now I could see all fifteen windows, and I stood in the middle of the room, transfixed. [Read more…]