The Royal Chapel at Château de Versailles: A Divine Beacon Fit for a Sun King

Larger Than Life: Art that inspires us through the ages

The king and his family sat in the center of the upper level of the chapel, while the ladies of court sat in the side galleries. The remainder of the court and the public sat in the nave below. (Thomas Garnier/Château de Versailles)
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By Epoch Times Staff

A renewed sense of grandeur has returned to the Royal Chapel at Versailles, after a three-year restoration project.

In the 17th century, the Sun King, Louis XIV, personally directed the creation of this grand chapel. In doing so, he established a conduit between the heavens, the French monarchy, and hence the people of France for generations to come.

In 1687, the king’s architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart began work on the chapel, and after he died, the building was completed in 1710 by his brother-in-law, the architect Robert de Cotte.

The chapel stands taller than the surrounding palace buildings, reminding everyone that the divine rules even the king. 

The main walls, ornamented with Corinthian pilasters (architectural façade features that give the appearance of columns), form the body of the building and support the upper level, which is lined by a balustrade and 30 statues. Sixteen different sculptors carved these statues, depicting Christian figures or allegories of Christian virtues—all to inspire man.

Behind the statues, Gothic-style buttresses, topped with eternal torches, arch upward to the heavens. The buttresses support the steep, hipped slate roof typically seen in French architecture. And touches of gold leaf highlight the ornate leadwork on the chapel roof.

Sunlight pours into the chapel through large Gothic-style windows that are a combination of clear and stained glass.

Inside the chapel, the soft vertical lines of the arches and columns gently allure the eye, leading one’s attention from the chapel floor through the mid-level columns, before settling on the spectacular vaulted ceiling covered with paintings portraying the Holy Trinity. 

To find out more about the restoration of the Royal Chapel at the Château de Versailles, visit ChateauVersailles.fr

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Inside the newly restored Royal Chapel at the Château de Versailles on April 20, 2021. The restoration started in Autumn 2017. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

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The Royal Chapel before its three-year restoration. (Didier Saulnier/Château de Versailles)

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The newly restored Royal Chapel at Versailles. The chapel is taller than the surrounding buildings to highlight the importance of the church and the divine rule of the king. Indeed, the gold-trimmed roof shimmers as if it were the crown of Versailles and of France. (Christian Milet/Château de Versailles)

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Craftsmen gilded the ornate lead work back to its original state. (Didier Saulnier/Château de Versailles)

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“An artist attentively gilds the lead sculptures as part of the Royal Chapel restoration project.
(Thomas Garnier/Château de Versailles)

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The south side of the restored chapel. Eternal torches can be seen at the top, and beneath them are statues: Christian figures and allegories of Christian virtues. (Thomas Garnier/Château de Versailles)

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Restored statues of St. Gregory the Great (L) and St. Ambrose. (Thomas Garnier/Château de Versailles)

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A stone carver restores the stonework to its former glory. (Didier Saulnier/Château de Versailles)

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The harmonious interior of the Royal Chapel is created by a combination of colonnades and the many windows that fill the sacred space with an almost heavenly light. (Thomas Garnier/Château de Versailles)

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A detail of the ornate gilding inside the Royal Chapel. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

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The dove representing the Holy Trinity and the golden Fleur d’Lis of the French monarchy are some of the rich motifs seen throughout the stained glass windows of the Royal Chapel as a reminder that the right to rule is a gift bestowed by God. (Didier Saulnier/Château de Versailles)

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A detail of one of the elegant stained glass windows, surrounded by splendid golden frescoes. (Didier Saulnier/Château de Versailles)

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The king and his family sat in the center of the upper level of the chapel, while the ladies of court sat in the side galleries. The remainder of the court and the public sat in the nave below. (Thomas Garnier/Château de Versailles)

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Colonnades of Corinthian columns stretch up to the incredible painted ceiling that portrays the Holy Trinity. In the center is “God the Father in His Glory” by Antoine Coypel, in the apse is “The Resurrection” by Charles de La Fosse, and above the Royal Gallery is “The Descent of the Holy Ghost” by Jean Jouvenet. (Thomas Garnier/Château de Versailles)

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