Darkness or light?

Almost seven years ago I posted about the Chartres Cathedral (and also about the town), so I will try not to repeat myself too much here…,

… only to say that the renovation, the cleaning process of the cathedral, is ongoing - see the contrast between dark and light in the top picture.

Some people seem to be against, finding that the fantastic blueish windows are in less contrast when the walls have been cleaned – and some colours also appear.

I had the privilege to meet Mr. Malcolm Miller, who has been giving tours of the cathedral for the last almost 60 years and has lectured on it at a number of French and foreign universities. He is a clear defender of the restoration work and he had no difficulties to make me agree. It may be difficult to know exactly what it all looked like when the cathedral stood ready during the 13th century, but it’s obvious that the darkness of the walls that we have been used to see to a large extent basically is “pure filth”. Most experts – and visitors – now seem to agree that the renovation which will last for another one or two years, is a good thing.

Visiting the cathedral with Mr. Miller means also that you learn to discover some details of some 176 (186?) stained glass windows, almost all original and medieval. Some windows are actually as old as from about 1150 - parts of an older church which burnt down were saved and incorporated when the new building work started in 1194. This refers e.g. to the “Jesse”, the “Incarnation” and the “Passion and Resurrection” windows.

These windows can be found on the west façade, which thus was there already as part of the previous church. These sculptures and reliefs are thus considered to date from around 1145-50. By the way, the south tower is also from that period, whereas the north tower got its present shape only some 400 years later.

Some views from the other facades.

Here we can see the 13th century north and south rose windows…

… and some details from other windows... 

... where we can discover, Adam, Eve… One theory is of course that the windows also are there to tell the stories of the Bible, considering that they were made when most people couldn’t yet read.

The floor labyrinth is from 1205. If you follow the trace, you will have to walk almost 300 meters (964 ft).

The choir screen, also partly cleaned, is more recent – 16th to 18th centuries.  


Synne said...

Wow, the difference is huge! What beautiful windows, and how nice that they are restoring the place to its former glory!

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Wow what a difference. It is amazing. Your post is fab Peter as always.
Love the stained glass windows ..vibrant and alive. Take care x

R.Ewen said...

I spent some time here in the 90s and was fortunate to listen to Malcom Miller speak about the cathedral way back in the late 70s. I was also struck by the reflections on the stone floors and walls from the shafts of colored light streaming through the windows. The cleaning has enhanced this light and color. My last visit in 2014 included many sights of half-cleaned stone sculpture and barricades and noises of workmen. It is truly on of the most spiritual experiences one can have. Thanks for sharing it.

joanna said...

Pretty spectacular photos Peter, seeing it being meticulously restored to all its glory. It will be nice to visit the cathedral when it is completely restored to it's original resplendent beauty.

claude said...

L'année dernière en juin, je suis allée retrouver Catherine et un couple d'amis à elle. Bien évidemment nous avons visité la Cathédrale que j'avais déjà vu petite quand j'étais au patronage à Paris.
J'aime visiter ces lieux religieux, ce sont de vraies merveilles.

Studio at the Farm said...

What an awe-inspiring cathedral! I am sure, when the cleaning is complete, that it will look even more beautiful.