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Chapelle Expiatoire, Paris: the Burial Place of King Louis XVI & Marie-Antoinette

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Chateaubriand called it “perhaps the most remarkable monument in Paris”. La Chapelle Expiatoire (the Expiatory Chapel) is one of those hidden gems which blends history, art, and architecture and offers a quiet oasis not far from the bustle and hustle of the Grands Boulevards.

Built on the location of an ancient cemetery (le Cimitière de la Madeleine) which received hundreds of corpses during the revolutionary days, the Chapel was erected at the exact point where King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were buried after their execution in 1793.

In 1814 France restored the monarchy with King Louis XVIII. It was King Louis XVIII, King Louis XVI’s brother, who ordered the transfer of the remains of the royal couple to Basilica of Saint-Denis, the burial place of the Kings of France. The King also commissioned the construction of the Chapelle Expiatoire to honor their memory.

Designed by the architect Fontaine (1816-1826), the Chapelle Expiatoire’s main purpose was to ask for the pardon on behalf of France.

Chapelle Expiatoire - Paris


Chapelle Expiatoire’s Architecture

Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine was a Neoclassical French architect, interior decorator, and designer. He designed the Chapelle Expiatoire in a Neoclassical style, taking some elements from Roman and Greek antiquity, Middle Ages and Renaissance. The decoration is very minimalist, reminding us that this Chapel is a memory place.

Inside the Chapel, we can find the sculptures of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette. King Louis XVI is ascending to Heaven with the help of an angel. The pedestal is engraved with the King’s testament, written before his execution.

We especially liked the sculpture called “Marie-Antoinette Soutenue par la Religion” (Queen MarieAntoinette hold by Religion) designed by Jean Pierre Cortot in 1835. Queen Marie-Antoinette, downhearted, asks Religion for help and Religion shows her the cross. The Religiona veiled woman, has the traits of Madame Elisabeth, the King’s sister.

Madame Elisabeth was the Queen’s main support during her confinement in the Tour du Temple. The King’s sister was the recipient of a very poignant (and beautiful) last letter from Queen Marie-Antoinette just a few hours before her death.

The altar in the crypt marks the exact location of the King’s body exhumation.

Marie Antoinette Soutenue par la Religion


La Reine C’est Moi

The famous phrase “La Reine, c’est moi” (I am the Queen) by Madame Elisabeth is one of our favorite parts of this story. On confronting a mob intent on harming Queen Marie-Antoinette, she used their confusion about her identity and claimed she was the Queen to save her from harm.

Madame Elisabeth also passed through the guillotine in 1794.


Chapelle Expiatoire - Paris


The Swiss Guards’ Tombs

Visitors access to this nostalgic place through an alley flanked by some tombs. These tombs are just symbolic, they remind us of the Swiss Guards, the soldiers who died at the King’s service in 1792.

On this green space in front of the Chapel, we can also find many kinds of trees symbolizing the different social classes, all victims of the French Revolution.

Swiss Guard's Tombs


Marie-Antoinette’s Execution

Marie-Antoinette's Execution - William Hamilton

Marie-Antoinette’s Execution – table by William Hamilton

Since their fleeing and arrest at Varennes in June 1791, the fate of the Royal Family was in suspense. The insurrectionary day of August 10, 1792, was to tragically seal their future.

King Louis XVI, accused of high treason amongst other things, was executed on January 21, 1793.

Queen Marie-Antoinette, instead, was locked in the Temple prison with her children and her sister-in-law. While internal and external difficulties threatened to overthrow the young Republic, Queen Marie-Antoinette (symbol of the Old Regime) was separated from her children and transferred to the Conciergerie.

On October 3, the Convention decided to bring her before the Revolutionary Court. On the 15th, after a quick trial where she was even accused of incest, the Court sentenced the Queen to death for the crime of high treason.

Queen Marie-Antoinette went through the guillotine at Place de la Révolution (today Place de la Concorde) on October 16 at a quarter past twelve. It is said that on the scaffold she would have walked on the executioner’s foot and said: “oh sorry my apologies, I did not do it on purpose”.


Chapelle Expiatorie, Paris – Practical Info

La Chapelle Expiatoire is located at Rue Pasquier, Paris 75008; M. Saint Agustin, L9; Vélib Station #8016

The Chapelle Expiatoire is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10h-12h30 and 13h30-17h from October to March and from 10h-12h30 and 13h30-18.30h from April to September.

Tickets: Full price ticket costs 6€. There’s free admission for people under 18, people from 18-25 (citizens of the 27 countries of the European Union and non-European residents regularly resident in France). Also, it is possible to visit the Chapelle Expiatoire for free during special occasions like Les Journées du Patrimoine (usually by the end of September).

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  • Johna
    05/04/2017 at 5:19 am

    Stunning! I was actually in Paris this time last year. Missing it a lot. Too bad we didn’t have enough time to visit this place. Looks so interesting!

    • WorldInParis
      05/10/2017 at 4:55 pm

      That means you will have to come back again 😉

  • Darlene
    05/03/2017 at 10:50 am

    Interesting. The architecture of this place is quite mystical. For sure it is also a bit eery due to its history. A hidden gem.

    • WorldInParis
      08/03/2017 at 1:04 pm

      Yes, a hidden gem in the middle of Paris 🙂

  • Sandy N Vyjay
    05/03/2017 at 2:43 am

    Who would have thought that a tomb, a man’s final resting place will be divinely beautiful? It’s classy and intricately detailed architecture will simply make every visitor’s “ wow”. Aside from being at the exact point where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were buried. Nowadays this place is one of the top choices for wedding and Nuptial photos.

    • WorldInParis
      08/10/2017 at 9:22 am

      Really? I had no idea about the wedding thing!

  • Joanna
    05/02/2017 at 4:41 pm

    It’s amazing how Paris has so many beautiful and interesting places to visit. The architecture of the chapelle is so pretty and from your photos I can see that it’s not a touristy place and you can enjoy it in peace.

    • WorldInParis
      05/10/2017 at 4:57 pm

      It is a very calm and peaceful place. It is hidden in the middle of a garden so you see it only if you know about it

  • celine
    05/02/2017 at 3:43 pm

    There’s so much more to see in Paris. I didn’t get to see secluded and quaint areas such as this. In my next visit, I hope!

    05/02/2017 at 12:24 pm

    The architectural design of the place is really fascinating and the story behind is really worth reading.

    • WorldInParis
      05/06/2017 at 8:27 pm

      I agree with you Michael. I particularly like the sculpture of M A and her sister in law (and the story behind)

  • Fábio inácio
    05/02/2017 at 11:23 am

    I love your posts and hate at the same time ahaha, it just make me realize that when I was in Paris I miss so many awesome things but also make me want to go there again, and I will next monthhh 😀 😀 😀
    I love minimalist places and the architecture so I am sure that I will not miss this Chapell now in May!

    • WorldInParis
      05/06/2017 at 8:27 pm

      Oh cool! Don’t forget to tell us about your Parisian adventures on our FB page 😉

  • Andi
    05/02/2017 at 10:20 am

    This is fascinating and the photos are great too! I’d like to see this in person and learn more about it someday.

  • Sianna
    05/01/2017 at 8:41 pm

    You can definitely notice the Roam and Greek influence on the architecture. This place is amazing, definitely looks like an oasis that shouldn’t be missed!

  • Viki
    05/01/2017 at 3:11 pm

    The statue of Marie Antoinette – her face looks like she knows that she could have done better in this life and begging for peace.

    • WorldInParis
      07/06/2017 at 3:10 pm

      I think the definitely could have done better in this life 😉

  • Claire
    05/01/2017 at 10:49 am

    I love the architecture here. I’m in Paris soon so I might have to check this out.

    • WorldInParis
      05/06/2017 at 8:28 pm

      The Paris bucket list is growing for you Claire . . lol

  • Sarah
    05/01/2017 at 6:14 am

    I’ve visited Paris many times but never seen this place. Nice post looks like a cool place to visit

    • WorldInParis
      08/04/2017 at 3:06 pm

      Maybe next time 🙂

  • Katelyn Thomas
    05/01/2017 at 2:02 am

    What lovely architecture. I love the repetition of the tombs.

  • Gareth
    04/30/2017 at 1:09 pm

    As something of a self-professed history buff, I find this part of Parisian history fascinating and have been there a number of times and I imagine will do so again. Certainly, you did a lovely job capturing the essence of the place in your photos and it looks like you got an idyllic day for it. And really, at 6€, who could possibly complain?

  • Emily
    12/07/2016 at 11:38 am

    Fascinating. I’d love to visit this chapelle and learn a bit more of its history. La prochaine fois…

  • Claire
    08/02/2016 at 11:19 am

    Oooh I’ve never heard of this! Looks great, thanks for drawing some emphasis on a hidden gem

    • WorldInParis
      08/08/2016 at 11:32 am

      thanks Claire!

  • Karla
    08/01/2016 at 6:14 pm

    I really like historical travel and this looks very interesting! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • WorldInParis
      08/01/2016 at 7:51 pm

      Thanks to you Karla for dropping by 🙂

  • travelling chingrita
    08/01/2016 at 5:48 pm

    fascinating! i love that you were able to enjoy the rich history and culture of this lovely chapelle. pictures are incredible as well. what was your most favourite fact on this tour?

    • WorldInParis
      08/01/2016 at 7:53 pm

      It is a very small chapel so the visit was short. It was during the Journées du Patrimoine and there were long queues everywhere but it seemed nobody knew about this chapel

  • Victoria
    08/01/2016 at 1:19 pm

    “Marie Antoinette soutenue par la Religion” is beautiful sculpture <3

    • WorldInParis
      08/01/2016 at 1:26 pm

      Agree! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Castaway with Crystal
    08/01/2016 at 1:03 pm

    What a great history lesson! Awesome photos too. Thanks for this post 🙂

  • Alex Datsev
    07/31/2016 at 8:46 pm

    How interesting! Love discovering less-known historical sites like this…

    • WorldInParis
      08/01/2016 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks Alex 🙂

  • Paul
    07/31/2016 at 7:03 pm

    So much history in this place, I would love to visit here one day!

    • WorldInParis
      08/01/2016 at 1:27 pm

      Think about us if you decide to come 😉

  • Rebecca
    07/31/2016 at 6:43 pm

    What a beautiful place with such rich history. Love the photos!

    • WorldInParis
      08/01/2016 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks Rebecca 🙂

  • WorldInParis
    07/31/2016 at 12:05 pm

    Thanks N! I hope you also loved the chapel’s history behind 😉

  • Carmel jansen
    07/30/2016 at 11:23 pm

    Such history, these are beautiful photos, such detail in the construction

    • WorldInParis
      07/31/2016 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks Carmel! It is a small but beautiful chapel 🙂