Inside it is no more glorious. The walls are exposed stonework and crumbling plaster, and a net is suspended from the ceiling to protect parishioners from falling masonry. It is sparse and primitive, somehow matching the astonishing level of honesty and candidness in the messages that have been written in the call for prayers book. A mother searching for strength from above to help her deal with two teenage daughters who have become more and more difficult since the death of their father. Another promising eternal devotion if a loved one can be saved. There is a strong sensation of dampness, and an earthy rawness to the interior. It would be like being shut in a cave if it wasn't also so extremely light and airy.
Somewhere at my feet there is a brick laid by a king. The chapel was an integral part of the original hospital structure which was built in 1607. Henri IV ordered the construction of a church that could at once be shared by those living inside the hospital and those on the outside, and he personally placed the first brick of the chapel down himself. However it was not to be a lucky omen. Three years to the day later, the first service was held in the hospital chapel. It was Henri IV's memorial service, a funeral following his assassination by Ravillac.
As with many religious structures, the chapel suffered immensely during the revolution in 1789. Its stained-glass windows and statues were destroyed, and the bells were taken away to be melted down. In many ways it has never recovered from this plundering. Today the windows are still colourless, and there are no bells to ring. The site was though to become the scene of an important moment in history during the midnight mass of 1816.
The plaque also commemorates one man, Philippe Le Bon, credited with the invention of gas lighting and heating, but like Henri IV, he was not around to share in the glory of his construction. Legend has it that he was stabbed to death on the streets of Paris in 1804, exactly the same fate suffered by Henri IV.
Walls tell many stories. Here they remind us that bright lights necessarily bring long shadows.