The palace chapels of Bourbon-l’Archambault are the only of the eleven Saint Chapels that were made of two separate structures.

They were built in the Main Bailey during the rule of the Dukes Louis I (1310-1315) for the first one, and under Jean II (1479-1508). The latter was inaugurated by Anne of France, the king Louis XI’s daughter. Notre-Dame, the first chapel, was intended to house the precious relics of the Passion of Christ that Saint Louis gave his son Robert of Clermont: A Thorn from the Christ’s Crown and fragments of the Cross. Robert of Clermont transposed the relics to Bourbon-l’Archambault in 1287. The relics never left Bourbon-l’Archambault and are now, since 1793, housed at the Saint-Georges parish presbytery of Bourbon.

The larger collegiate chapel, dedicated to the Holy Cross, was a gem of flamboyant gothic style that resembled the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. A canonical college served at the chapels until the Revolution, despite the major storms of 1589 and 1641 which irreparably damaged them: stained glass panes, the porch and the roof were then partially destroyed and the chapels had become shadows of their former selves by 1789. They weren’t, so to speak, destroyed during the Revolution.

Building a second chapel to house the saint Relics is a sign of the symbolic importance attached to the castle of Bourbon, considered a « family home » by every member of the family.

These relics, and the gems that were built to house them in this family home, is also a political message. They were intended to remind everybody, including the Kings of France themselves, that the Bourbons have Capetian blood in their veins and that they are descended from Saint Louis. In those times, that meant that they were the depository of a royal power transfer. They were thus legitimate in exercising their power and function. The chapel and the relics they house consequently reassert the Bourbons’ ambition to succeed to the throne of France. This will come to reality in 1589 with one of their descendent from the House of Bourbon-Vendôme, Henri I de Navare, known as Henri IV.

The modern garden design was intended to show the location of the two chapels. Look South, slightly to the left, you will clearly see were the chapels stood. Their positions are marked with vegetation. The slanted steps stand for the rib vault of the XVth c. chapel.

 © March 2023

Location of the two castral chapels
Tudot / Durand, 1834
Pierre Gélis-Didot, 1876
View of the Saint Chapel, Israël Silvestre, 1648
Anon., British Museum