Chapelle Expiatoire Chapel in Paris

Located in a square in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris, this small chapel is one of the relatively unknown monuments in Paris that was built in remembrance of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, but is well worth a visit if you are near here.

A bit of history

The French Revolution was a horrific time in the history of Paris where thousands of people were detained in La Conciergerie prior to meeting their fate via the guillotine that was erected in the Place de la Concorde.

And probably some of the most well known figures to meet this fate were Marie Antoinette and her husband King Louis XVI, who were both sentenced to death in the year 1793.

As with the majority of people who were guillotined, or met their death other ways in the French Revolution, a lot of their bodies were transported to different graveyards throughout the city of Paris, and one small graveyard which was known as Cimetiere de la Madeleine Cemetery, is where the monarchs were originally placed.
Chapelle Expiatoire building

The cemetery was closed and became private land and then this site was purchased in the year 1802 by a gentleman called Pierre-Louis Olivier Desclozeaux, who was a royalist magistrate that had lived close by the cemetery during the French Revolution.

It is claimed that Desclozeaux knew where the monarchs were buried and when King Louis XVIII came to power, he decided he wanted a proper burial for his brother King Louis XVI and sister-in-law Marie Antoinette at the Saint Denis Basilica, which is where all their ancestors and French Kings were laid to rest.

Therefore, King Louis XVIII purchased this plot of land and exhumed the bodies of these two monarchs so that they could have a proper burial ceremony and be laid to rest at the Saint Denis Basilica just on the outskirts of Paris, which happened in 1815 and this is where their tombs remain to this day.

But shortly after this, King Louis XVIII decided to have a chapel built on part of the cemetery where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were originally buried, and the design was entrusted to the architect Pierre Francois Leonard Fontaine, who was one of the favourite architects of Napoleon.  And he shared the expense of the building of the Chapelle Expiatoire with his Niece, the Duchess of Angouleme, who was the only remaining child of Marie Antoinette.

However, the chapel took ten years to be completed and it was finally inaugurated in the presence of King Charles X in the year 1826.

About the Chapelle Expiatoire

The Chapelle Expiatoire is a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture that was designed like a Greco-Roman necropolis in the shape of a Greek cross with a dome in the centre of the building that provides natural light.

The dome itself above the centre of the chapel is supported by pendentives, which are basically triangular sections of vaulting between the rim of a dome and each adjacent pair of the arches that support it.

Also, the caissons, which are the concrete foundations for the pillars, are decorated with rosettes, which makes this structure even more impressive.

In the gardens of the Chapelle Expiatoire as you approach the chapel, you will get to see cenotaphs of the Swiss Guard who were massacred at the Tuileries Gardens, which is located by the famous Louvre museum in Paris during the French Revolution, and others who were known to be buried at this location.

The entrance is located on the Rue Pasquier and above there is an inscription which is dedicated to King Louis XVI and Marie Antoionette.

And upon entering the Chapelle Expiatoire, you will then get to see white marble statues, one of the King that was created by Francois Joseph Bosio and the other of his queen that was sculpted by Jean Pierre Cortot and these are classed as some of the finest 19th century sculptures in existence.
Chapelle Expiatoire dome roof inside

Chapelle Expiatoire statue inside
There is also a vault located below the main chapel, and it is here that you can view a back and white marble alter, which is meant to mark the spot where supposedly the remains of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were originally found.

Visiting the Chapelle Expiatoire

This chapel is only open on a Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10am to 12:30pm and from 1:30pm through to 5pm during the months of October to March. From April to September it is open at the same times, but also on a Wednesday as well.  However, it is closed on all National French holidays and on certain other days throughout a year, so if you do want to visit the Chapelle Expiatoire whilst you are on holiday in Paris, then it would be wise to check first.

Admission is a cost of €6 for an adult as of 2018, however, it is free for people under the age of 18 and also for disabled visitors and their escort.

But as well as the unaccompanied visit, lecture visits and those for groups are also available, but only upon prior reservation and are an approximate cost of €13 per person, normally conducted outside of normal opening times.

When it comes to reaching the Chapelle Expiatoire, you will find this chapel and monument located within the Square Louis XVI close to Boulevard Haussmann, but with the entrance on the Rue Pasquier in the 8th Arrondissement.

The closest Metro station to the Chapelle Expiatoire is the St Augustin stop serving line 9.  Alternatively a little further walk in a southerly direction and you have the Madeleine stop serving lines 8, 12 and 14.

In a northern direction you have the Gare Saint-Lazare train station serving Metro lines 3, 12, 13 and 14 along with Intercities and Transilien trains, but in an easterly direction there is the Haussmann - Saint-Lazare train station serving the RER E Line and the Auber station serving the RER A Line.

There are also the Bus Lines 22, 32, 80 and 94 within approximately 1 minutes walk and a little further in the direction of the Gare Saint-Lazare you have the bus lines 20, 21, 53, 66, again 80 plus 528 along with the Noctilien Night Bus Services via lines N02, N15, N16, N51, N52 and N150.