Introduction Originally named as Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres in French, it is now commonly known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres. Located in Chartres, about 80 kilometres(50mi) southwest of Paris Is considered as the finest examples in all France of the Gothic style in architecture.
Introduction From a distance view, it seems to hover in mid-air above waving fields of wheat. Its two contrasting spires — one, a 105 metre (349 ft) plain pyramid dating from the 1140s, and the other a 113 metre (377 ft) tall early 16th century Flamboyant spire on top of an older tower — soar upwards over the pale green roof, while all around the outside are complex flying buttresses.
History Was the most important building in town of Chartres. Was the centre of economy. The most famous landmark. The focal point of almost every activity that is provided by civic buildings in town today. In the Middle Ages, functioned as sometimes as a marketplace, with the different portals of the basilica selling different items: textiles at the northern end; fuel, vegetables and meat at the southern one. Chartres was a place of pilgrimage (where the crypt of the original church became a hospital to take care of the sick)
Cathedral Building History At least five cathedrals on this site, each replacing an earlier smaller building that had been destroyed by the war or fire. It was called the 'Church of Saint Mary' in the eighth century, and in 876 Charlemagne's grandson, Charles the Bald, gifted the Virgin's great relic, the Sancta Camisia, to the cathedral.
Cathedral Building History This veil is now housed in the cathedral treasury. The present dedication to 'Beata Maria Assumpta' probably dates from this gift. The earlier church had been destroyed by the Danes in 858. There was another fire in 962, and a more devastating conflagration in 1020 after which Bishop Fulbert reconstructed the whole building. Most of the present crypt, which is the largest in France, remains from that period.
Con’t Construction began in a blaze of enthusiasm dubbed the "Cult of the Carts". During this religious outburst a crowd of more than a thousand penitents dragged carts filled with building provisions including stones, wood, grain, etc. to the site. Bishop Fulbert established Chartres as one of the leading teaching schools in Europe. Great scholars were attracted to the cathedral, including Thierry of Chartres, William of Conches and the Englishman John of Salisbury. These men were at the forefront of the intense intellectual rethinking that we call the twelfth-century renaissance, and that led to the Scholastic philosophy that dominate medieval thinking.
Con’t In 1134 another fire damaged the town, and perhaps part of the cathedral. The sculpture of the Royal Portal was installed with it, probably just before 1140. It was once thought that this sculpture was intended for another place and moved here, but recent investigation has shown that all three doors and the magnificent figures around them were created for their present situation. The two towers were then completed fairly quickly and, between them on the first level, a chapel constructed to Saint Michael.
Con’t Traces of the vaults and the shafts which supported them are still visible in the western two bays. The glass in the three lancets over the portals which once illuminated this chapel were installed in about 1145. The south spire is 103 meters high, and was completed before 1155. Finally, on 10 June 1194 another fire destroyed nearly the whole of Fulbert's cathedral.
Con’t The cathedral has been fortunate in being spared the damage suffered by so many during the Wars of Religion and the Revolution, though the lead roof was removed to make bullets and the Directorate threatened to destroy the building as its upkeep, without a roof, had become too onerous.
Con’t All the glass was removed just before the Germans invaded France in 1939, and was cleaned after the War and releades and since then the fabric has been lovingly tendered and repaired in a most scrupulous fashion to retain its original character and beauty.
Walking the famous labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral.
Jamb statues of Saints Martin, Jerome, and Gregory
Plan and elevation The plan is cruciform, with a 28 metres (92 ft) long singled-aisled nave, and short transepts (three bays deep) to the south and north. The east end is rounded with a double-aisled ambulatory, from which radiate three deep semi-circular chapels (overlying the deep chapels of Fulbert's 11th-century apse) and four much shallower ones, one of which was effectively lost in the 1320s when the Chapel of St Piat was built.
The cathedral extensively used flying buttresses in its original plan, and these supported the weight of the extremely high vaults, at the time of being built, the highest in France. The new High Gothic cathedral at Chartres used four rib vaults in a rectangular space, instead of six in a square pattern, as in earlier Gothic cathedrals such as at Laon. The skeletal system of supports, from the compound piers all the way up to the springing and transverse and diagonal ribs, allowed large spaces of the cathedral to be free for stained glass work, as well as a towering height.
The spacious nave stands 36 metres (118 ft) high, and there is an unbroken view from the western end right along to the magnificent dome of the apse in the east. Clustered columns rise dramatically from plain bases to the high pointed arches of the ceiling, directing the eye to the massive clerestory windows in the apse.
Windows The cathedral has three large rose windows:
one on the west front with a theme of The Last Judgment.
one on the north transept with a theme of the Glorification of the Virgin.
one on the south transept with a theme of the Glorification of Christ.
Windows Chartres is noted for its many large stained glass windows. Dating from the early 13th century, the glass largely escaped harm during the religious wars of the 16th century; it is said to constitute one of the most complete collections of medieval stained glass in the world, despite "modernization" in 1753 when some of it was removed by well-intentioned but misguided clergy. Of the original 186 stained glass windows, 152 survive. The windows are particularly renowned for their vivid blue colour, especially in a representation of the Madonna and Child known as the Blue Virgin Window, a traditional iconography known as the Seat of Wisdom. The Jesse Tree window is another noted window at Chartres.
Windows Several of the windows were donated by royalty, such as the rose window at the north transept, which was a gift from the French queen Blanche of Castile. The royal influence is shown in some of the long rectangular lancet windows which display the royal symbols of the yellow fleurs-de-lis on a blue background and also yellow castles on a red background. Windows were also donated from lords, locals and tradespeople. The windows also present the first European wheelbarrow.
Porches On the doors and porches, medieval carvings of statues holding swords, crosses, books and trade tools parade adorn the portals. The sculptures on the west façade depict Christ's ascension into heaven, episodes from his life, saints, apostles, Christ in the lap of Mary and other religious scenes. Below the religious figures are statues of kings and queens, which is the reason why this entrance is known as the 'royal' portal. While these figures are based on figures from the Old Testament, they were also regarded as images of current kings and queens when they were constructed.
Porches The symbolism of showing royalty displayed slightly lower than the religious sculptures, but still very close, implies the relationship between the kings and God. It is a way of displaying the authority of royalty, showing them so close to figures of Christ, it gives the impression they have been ordained and put in place by God. Sculptures of the Seven Liberal Arts appear in the archivolt of the right bay of the Royal Portal, indicating the influence of the school at Chartres.
Depiction of Pride on the left pillar of the central bay of the south porch of Chartres Cathedral