The private chapel of King Louis IX was built in 1239-1248 as part of the royal palace at the center of Paris on the Ile de la Cite. Now, the stunning Sainte-Chapelle is open to everyone. The chapel was the highest achievement of Rayonnant Gothic, with a sense of weightlessness like the glass is rising towards the sky. Originally, the chapel was built to house religious relics. King Louis was obsessed with relics, and after he bought the supposed Crown of Thorns for a kingly sum, he lavished more money on an enormous silver Grand Chest to house his collection. Ironically, it was the chapel that cost the least amount of money, but it is probably the most beautiful element of the King’s grand plan. Centuries later, the chapel was looted during the French Revolution, the silver chest was melted down, and the relics dispersed.
But the beauty of Sainte-Chapelle was painstakingly recreated and two-thirds of the original glass windows remain. Walking down the aisle feels like a trip to paradise, and if you’re in Paris don’t miss a chance to visit Sainte-Chapelle.
Mont St Michel, France
This tiny island off the northern coast of France holds one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. Located at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches, the island is accessible at low tide across a natural bridge. The highly defensible position has been the home to isolated monks since the 8th Century. From afar, the monastery towers above the glittering town and waters below built like a vision of the ancient order of the Middle Ages: the church sitting on top of the great halls of the nobles and then, outside the walls, the common people. The monastery was heavily fortified and expanded over the centuries. The walls give the monastery a unique pyramidal appearance and statuesque beauty that earned it a spot on our list – but we’re not alone. Over 1.35 million tourists visit the iconic monastery every year for its Gothic chapel and Medieval charms, and the island is a World Heritage Site. Mont St Michel is definitely going to be a highlight of your trip to France. (We promise that not all of the churches are in France!)