“Indeed, building the Sainte- Chapelle was not only an act of faith; it was also a political deed”. According to the Saint-Chapelle readings, it is interesting to note and worth reflecting upon, the “recurrent alternation between royal and divine symbols” found in the Saint-Chapelle’s designs, windows, and statues.
The Fleur-de-lis which has always been recognized as a symbol of France is not just a beautiful emblem but an icon that actually carries with it a powerful political meaning. The abundant presence of this emblem which decorates the upper level of the Saint-Chapelle and its ceiling against a royal blue background is very symbolic of the monarchy’s dominance as a political messages that Saint Louis of France hoped to convey in the 13th century by placing this design in the church. Not only does the French King hope to establish his own representation of power through this emblem as part of the church’s architecture and decoration, but he is also aiming to demonstrate his relationship as King with the divine.
Throughout French history, we see this idea of a divine appointment of kings and royalty that allowed the monarchy to hold a great power over its people who were seen as superior beings. This tie to the divine that French kings have sought throughout centuries is reflected and almost taken to a new level by Saint Louis who obtains the cross relics and “considers himself as a worthy heir to Kings of Israel” for having brought such a desired acquisition to his country. Because of the transfer of these relics to the French King, he began to feel entitled to a divine status which he hoped would carry with it, immense power and authority. French history reminds us that monarchies have sought very authoritarian powers over its people culminating with the reign of Louis XIV as “le roi absolu” and proves that having “God on your side” as a leader of a country grants you that dominance, for who could contest the decision of God to make someone King?
Finally, we see parallels between the monarchy and the divine portrayed in the Saint-Chapelle’s art and decoration with the comparison of Saint Louis’ mother, Blanche de Castille to Esther in the Bible. These women are both seen as heroines who “save their people” in one way or another. Blanche de Castille, who during her son’s childhood leads the seventh crusade “saves her people” as Esther, a religious and divine figure in the Bible, prevents the slaughter of her people from the Persian King. It is interesting how throughout the course of French history this interplay between the political and the divine shape the structure of obedience and submission as God grants the monarchy great power and provides kings with incontestable authority, which as we know, can be troubling when these leaders are not actually infallible.