[JMJ 97 - Le Cyberjournal]

Thousands Venerate Relic of the Crown of Thorns

A simple but profound ceremony at the Sainte Chapelle drew all nations to one of Christianity's sources of strength: a relic of the crown of thorns which our Lord Jesus-Christ wore at his Passion.

THOUSANDS lined up on the sidewalks of the Île de la Cité this afternoon in order to venerate and pray silently before a relic of the crown of thorns which our Lord Jesus Christ wore at his Passion. After entering the ground-floor chapel where they were greeted by Franciscans and Dominicans and other religious, visitors sat down to sing Crucem tuam adoramus, a Taizé melody. A reading of one of the gospel accounts of the flagellation and the crowning with thorns followed in several languages.

Private meditation

Visitors then wound up the narrow spiralling staircase to the Upper Room, the chapel that Saint Louis, King of France, had specially built to contain the holy relic. Knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre guided visitors towards the relic. The atmosphere of quiet meditation was barely disturbed by the continuous line of young people waiting to kiss the relic and kneel down in prayer.

700 years of prayer

It was in the 13th century that the Sainte Chapelle was constructed, following one of the Crusades to the Holy Land. It was built especially for the relics that Crusaders brought back from Palestine, in the style that was then becoming famous all over Europe: the "French" style, later known as "Gothic" architecture. The Sainte Chapelle is one of the most famous examples of Gothic art in France. The stained glass windows of the Upper Room, the blues and yellows and greens, use the natural source of light to decorate all corners of the building and create an atmosphere condusive to meditation. Today, the Chapel is surrounded by the great halls of the State Courthouse (Palais de Justice).

Paul-Dominique Masiclat