4.6.10

Chartres - the Cathedral

Chartres is a beautiful town, some 90 km (60 miles) from Paris; one hour by train. It has a long history, was called Autricum during Roman times, became during the Middle Ages the centre of the “granary of France” (Beauce) and so still is.

I will revert to the town in a future post and will now concentrate on its famous cathedral.

The present cathedral replaced previous ones, destroyed by fires and Vikings. Already since the 9th century Chartres has been an important pilgrimage centre because of a relic given to the cathedral - the “Sancta Camisia”, what is supposed to have been the tunic of Virgin Mary. It’s still there.

The present building, built during the 13th century, incorporating some remains of the previous Romanesque one, is maybe the finest French Gothic cathedral, basically untouched by later wars and revolutions and looking more or less the same as it did when built with exception of one of the towers, the higher one, which was added during the 16th century and which you can visit by climbing some narrow stairs.
Most of the walls, inside as well as outside are very dark, some smaller parts have been renovated and are shining white. The renovation is ongoing. 

Although already the exterior is worth the visit, one is generally even more impressed by the interior.
What strikes the most may be the stained glass windows (some 150?), with their specific blue dominating colour. They left the cathedral during WWII, but are back. Most of them are as old as the cathedral, or even older. The rose windows date from 1150 to 1230.
The most famous window is perhaps the “Blue Virgin Window”, the centre of which also dates from around 1150.
The remarkable choir screen has been added later and took some 200 years to complete; finished only during the 18th century.
Special attention could also be given to part of the floor, designed and created in 1205 as a labyrinth with a 300 m (1000 ft) path, still used by pilgrims - when the chairs have been removed.
I wish you a nice weekend!

32 comments:

-K- said...

Fascionating. I was slightly familiar with it stained glass but had no idea it was so old or that a relic is involved in its history.

Bloody Frida said...

gorgeous! It was quite atmospheric to come out of the cathedral to watch a funeral procession walking by (when I visited France the only time 30 years ago)

La Bonne Vivante said...

I will never forget the earthy smell of Chartres when I visited it as an 18 yr old. I fell in love, then and there, and now I study medieval literature. Coincidence? Maybe. But there's something special about that place. it is unlike any other holy place I have ever visited...

Kim said...

Peter, thank you, as always, for your detailed descriptions and wonderful photos. I will plan a side trip to this magnificent cathedral when I next come to Paris. I hope you enjoyed your time there. I'm sure as you looked at everything through your lens and uploaded your shots that you really had a chance to "see" it.
-Kim

Louis la Vache said...

Chartes is truly magnificent. «Louis» loves the sight of her rising above the wheat fields as you approach the city. During WWII, her windows (as well as those of la Sainte-Chapelle in Paris) were carefully removed, packed in straw and hidden in barns around the French countryside in order to preserve them from battle damage or destruction.

Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral in San Francisco has both an indoor and outdoor replica of the Chartres labyrinth. Grace keeps their labyrinths accessible for walking, while Chartres, for some strange reason, rarely does.

Louis la Vache said...

Here's a post on «Louis'» old "Frog Blog" about the labyrinth. (The blog got all buggy, so «Louis» quit writing to it.)

V Rakesh said...

Fascinating architecture! Brilliant!

Do have a wonderful weekend!

Olivier said...

la cathedrale de chartres est vraiment magnifique, j'aime beaucoup les photos vu d'en haut

claude said...

Quel beau post Peter ! C'est intéressant, je dirai même mieux, très instructif. Je l'ai visité cette cathédrale,, il y a fort longtemps avec le patronnage. Tu vois que ce n'est pas d'hier. C'est un des joyaux de notre belle France.
T'aurais poussé encore un peu et tu arrivais chez moi !

hpy said...

On voit la cathédrale de loin quand on arrive de Rouen par la route qui, il y a déjà une vingtaine d'années, a la particularité d'avoir au moins douze ronds points à proximité de Chartres!

Thérèse said...

Encore un souvenir: Paris Chartres à pieds! Je découvre de plus près cette cathédrale que l'on voit de loin...

Bettina said...

What beautiful photos of this gorgeous cathedral.
I will look forward to the post about the town. From what I can see on one of those photos, it looks like something from a fairytale.

Have a nice weekend, Peter.

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Delphinium said...

Coucou tout le monde, je ne suis jamais allée à Chartres. Et puis quand je suis allée à Paris, je n'avais pas de baskets pour faire Paris-Chartres à pieds. :-) (pas comme thérèse apparemment)
Les vitraux sont magnifiques, surtout la rosace. Un joyau de France, comme beaucoup d'autres, à conserver précieusement.

Delphinium said...

dis, ça cause beaucoup anglais ici, tu deviens célèbre dans le monde entier avec tes posts.

Catherine said...

Ah ! La Cathédrale de Chartres...Celle qui a accompagné mes ancêtres en remontant sur des générations et des générations.

L'icone de la ville, comment l'ignorer ? On la voit de partout autour à des kms à la ronde.

J'imagine l'effet de voir cette merveille majestueuse se dresser aux siècles passés au milieu des champs de blé. Un repère dans la plaine.

Bergson said...

des vitraux magnifiques

Starman said...

The only thing you left out is the Monet painting.

Ruth said...

You did an extra great job with this, Peter. I'm so glad I got there with Don. We loved it, from the moment we saw it from the train pulling into the village. I was blown away by the windows -- so old and magnificent, and still intact.

Of course the labyrinth is a legendary treasure, and we walked around it a couple of times since the chairs were moved to the side. Wouldn't I love to drink tea with you in the sweet little tea room just across the alley!

Happy weekend.

Virginia said...

As always you make me want to add your posts to my next list! The top photo reminds me of a kaleidoscope. If only I could stay in France long enough to find these wonderful spots that you share with us.
V

Virginia said...

Oh.... that gorgeous floor! The pattern and the color. Lovely.
v

Shammickite said...

And all this beauty, this creativity, the stained glass windows, the carving on the rood screen, the floor, the whole building, was created to the Glory of God.... what an incredible thought. That men strived to build this wonderful building over many centuries in order to praise God! Thank you for the pictures. Wonderful.

rauf said...

Never heard of Charters Peter, don't even know how it is pronounced. Splendid pictures. Magnificent art architecture, literature and music are some of the very few things religion has inspired.

Cezar and Léia said...

Magnificent Cathedral dear Peter and your pictures are awesome!
Hugs
Léia

*** studying and a little bit crazy here because my French tests will start next week!

James said...

I've only been to Chartes once but I really liked it even though it was the coldest weather that I've ever felt. I want to go to Chartes again this fall but my wife has her heart set on Rouen. Maybe we'll do both.
It was very nice to see these pictures.

Nathalie said...

Comme Catherine Chartres évoque surtout pour moi une cathédrale qui se voit de loin au milieu des champs de blé, les vitraux, la façade aussi.

Mais je ne connaissais pas le labyrinthe au sol. Magnifique !

Je vois que le printemps venant, tu nous sors de Paris. A quand un billet sur Avignon ?

Harriet said...

What a treat you have given us this time! Merci millefois.

Trotter said...

The Cathedral is awesome and the stained glass windows are unbeatable!! And mostly in blue... ;)

Cathy said...

My daughter and I are planning a return trip to Paris and this is just the information we are looking for. What a magnificent cathedral...a place we must see. Great post, Peter.

arabesque said...

hi peter!
always fascinated at its rich history and intricate details esp. on the structures and figures.
this is indeed a stunning church with so much things to look and admire at.
one can really see how each and every aspect was complexly done.
interesting post as always, ^0^

Jilly said...

This is one place I've always wanted to visit. have seen coverage of it on television in the past and loved it. Your photos are simply stunning and really take us there, Peter. thanks for the visit. One day I'll get there.

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