From 3 March to 4 June 2017 The Moscow Kremlin State Historical and Cultural Museum and Heritage Site (the Moscow Kremlin Museums) will present exhibition 'Saint Louis and Relics of the Sainte-Chapelle' at the exhibition hall of the Patriarch's Palace. The aim is to bring the greatest achievements of the French medieval culture to the Russian public. The exhibition is organized by the Moscow Kremlin Museums and the Centre of National Monuments (France) with the support of the French Embassy in Russia within the framework of Russia-France Year of cultural tourism.
The exhibition is devoted to Louis IX, one of the most famous French kings. He was known as the perfect European sovereign of the time, personifying the medieval idea of a fair Christian king – leader of the Crusades, defender of the Holy Land, builder of temples and monasteries, patron of the sciences and arts, which flourished during his reign and spread throughout Europe.
Visitors will be able to see true masterpieces of Gothic art related to the time of St Louis. Most of them will be displayed in Russia for the first time, including stained glass panels from Sainte-Chapelle and unique items from key French collections, such as the Louvre Museum, the Museum of the Middle Ages Cluny, as well as manuscripts and documents from the National Library and the National Archives of France and finally pieces from a number of provincial French museums. Another important participant is the State Hermitage Museum, which loaned excellent Limoges enamels and ivory works of the 13th – early 14th centuries.
One of the core exhibits is a Reliquary for the Crown of Thorns created in 1806, now kept in the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The Crown of Thorns of the Saviour was purchased by St Louis in 1239 together with other relics of the Passion, which turned the French sovereign of the Capetians dynasty into the ‘most Christian of all kings’. In the following years Louis collected more than 20 relics of the Passion – particles of the Holy Cross, the stone of the Holy Sepulchre, the centurion Longinus Spear and others. To store the greatest relics of the Christian world the Holy Chapel (Sainte-Chapelle) was built as part of the royal palace in Paris to become a precious reliquary of stone and stained glass - a masterpiece of Gothic art, and by far the most complete ensemble of stained-glass windows of the 13th century.
Fragments of stained-glass windows of the Sainte-Chapelle, dismounted in the 19th century and stored at the Center for National Monuments, will make one of the focal points of the exhibition at the Moscow Kremlin Museums. These magnificent examples of stained glass will leave France for the first time to shine under the old vaults of the Patriarch’s Palace. The expressive painting on glass, telling the Biblical story of mankind from the Creation to the Ressurrection of Christ will enable one to discover the world of a European medieval man, reveal his ideas of beauty, holiness and power of nature.
The display will demonstrate refined plastic of Gothic sculpture of the time of its heyday, represented by a sculptural portrait of St Louis from the collection of the Cluny Museum, as well as the statue of King's daughter, Isabella, from the collegiate church of Poissy, where the future king was baptized, as well as the image of the Virgin and Child from the Louvre Museum.
Visitors will also see magnificent samples from the golden age of the High Gothic jewelry art - exquisite works of Paris craftsmen and famous Limoges enamels, quatrefoil ark with the image of St Francis of Assisi, reliquary crown, which as the legend says, was presented by St Louis to the Dominican Monastery in Liège, the Gospel with a precious cover for service in the Sainte-Chapelle. The exhibition is a rare opportunity to enjoy exquisite art of medieval illuminated manuscripts and admire their colourful miniatures and ornaments, authors of which seemed to have found inspiration in the bright decoration of the Sainte-Chapelle.