Panorama : the Saint Chapel

They were built in the Main Bailey during the rule of the Dukes Louis I (1310-1315) and Jean II (1479-1508, inaugurated by Anne of France, Louis XI’s daughter). Both palace chapels were intended to house 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 larger collegiate chapel 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 roof were then partially destroyed and the chapels had become shadows of their former selves in by 1789. They weren’t, so to speak, destroyed during the Revolution.

Since 1793, the relics are housed at the parish presbytery in Bourbon (Saint-Georges).

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 built to house them in this home is also a political message. They are 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: Henri IV de Bourbon-Vendôme.

 © 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