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Review

“Sainte-Chapelle Stained Glass” App: Secrets of the Stained Glass Unlocked

Fig.1. The spectacular and intricate stained glass windows of the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris.

Fig.1. The spectacular and intricate stained glass windows of the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris.

Visitors to the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, can now view the chapel’s world-renowned stained glass windows in a dramatically new way, thanks to an app that allows the glass to be seen in greater detail than ever before and also explains the meaning behind each scene.

The app was developed from scratch by Francois Margot, a visitor guide at the chapel of more than twenty years standing, who also happens to be a computer scientist in his spare time. Realising that visitors continually asked the same questions about the details within the stained glass windows, but that the 200-page Corpus Vitrearum volume detailing the iconographic and technical aspects of the glass is more suited to the scholar than typical visitor, three years ago he set about blending his knowledge of IT and that of the windows.

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Fig.2. Screen shot of the Sainte-Chapelle app, showing title and detail magnification.

Fig.2. Screen shot of the Sainte-Chapelle app, showing title and detail magnification.

Supported by technicians from the Centre des Monuments Nationaux (CMN), and having taken a self-taught crash course in stained glass photography that included the taking of more than 2,000 images, Margot was ready in July 2016 to make his first trial, focusing on the chapel’s rose window representing the Book of Revelations. The application worked in the following way: after downloading the ‘Sainte-Chapelle Stained Glass’ (Vitraux-Sainte-Chapelle) app, the phone’s camera turns on the screen, and a small green target makes it possible to target the chosen stained glass window. Even the most distant panel can be recognised and the selected scene is displayed in large on the phone, together with the name of the window and a short description of the scene.

Margot’s achievements in this trial phase quickly won over his CMN sponsors, and in April 2017 all of the Sainte-Chapelle’s stained glass was put on the application and offered to the chapel’s visitors, who may explore every scene of the rose window for free and for €0.99, all of the stained glass windows. A second version of the application, offering a further enhanced experience, is already in the study phase.

The ‘Sainte-Chapelle Stained Glass’ app can be downloaded at the App Store or via Google Play, and is available in six languages (FR, IT, ES, DE, EN, CH).

For more information on the app, visit http://www.sainte-chapelle.fr/en/News/App-Unlock-the-secrets-of-the-windows