The cathedral, consecrated in 1260, is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of French high Gothic. According to a2zgov, it was the model for numerous other church buildings such as the cathedrals of Reims and Amiens and is France’s most important Marian shrine.
Chartres Cathedral: Facts
|Official title:||Chartres Cathedral|
|Cultural monument:||Gothic cathedral on the Île-de-France with a length of 130 m, 37 m high rib vaults, a 105 m high old tower (12th century) and a 115 m high new tower (16th century); magnificent stained glass windows on an area of 2000 m²|
|Country:||France, eure et Loir|
|Location:||Chartres, southwest of Paris|
|Meaning:||Epitome of French Gothic of the 12th / 13th centuries Century|
Chartres Cathedral: history
|1194||New church building on the foundations of an earlier basilica, including the preserved west facade (royal portal around 1150)|
|1220||Completion of the construction|
|1260||Consecration in the presence of Louis IX.|
|1507||Lightning destroys north tower, reconstruction|
|1594||Coronation of Henry IV.|
|1836||Conflagration destroys the roof structure made of lead|
|1840||Cast iron roof, patinated copper roof|
With the three times venerated Mother of God
The famous pilgrimage church, located on a hill, rises as an architectural masterpiece of the Gothic style above an incredibly old cult site, which was previously consecrated to an archaic fertility and mother goddess. The beginnings of the sanctuary are lost in the temporal and ideal depths of a mythical prehistory. Such a legendary basis is probably also the constant secret of success of the Christian cult of Mary after the goddess, venerated by the native Carnutes up to the Celtic-Roman late antiquity, was rededicated, so to speak, and now as “Notre-Dame” became “Our Lady”.
The robe of Our Lady has been kept in Chartres, the former “Carnutum”, since the year 876. This incomparable relic is said to have worked many miracles; for example the defense against an army of Norman looters, who immediately fled at the sight of the Marian dress held up against them from the city wall.
But pilgrims from another spiritual community also come to Chartres every year on June 21st. It is the sunbeam of the summer solstice that attracts young and old. At one o’clock in the afternoon, a ray of light falls on the stone floor through a tiny hole in the window named after Saint-Apollinaire. Hands stretch to catch the sunspot. Some people let the beam sweep over their bodies. The New Age disciples are not interested in the fact that this opening was created for the purpose of astronomical studies.
The cathedral, consecrated to the Assumption of Mary, was completed in an astonishingly short construction time of less than seven decades thanks to the committed cooperation of broad sections of the population. The contemporary chronicler Robert de Torigny reports about it: “In this year it happened for the first time, at Chartres, that people with their own shoulders pulled heavy carts full of stones, wood, grain and other things to the building of the church, the towers of which soon grew up. If you haven’t seen that, you’ll never see anything like it. And not only there, but in almost all of France, in Normandy and in many other places, people humbled themselves, repented with sorrow and contrition and forgave their enemies. «As a three-aisled basilica with a transept, With a five-aisled choir and a chapel wreath based on older foundations, the cathedral is one of the first Gothic church buildings in the wide area around Paris. Its central nave is supported above the 14 meter high aisles by a buttress made of pillars and double arches. Decisive for the building design and the architectural details was obviously the plan made by an ingenious master builder immediately after the fire of 1194 to include the “Old Tower” in the new church.
The underground of the cathedral is of particular importance for both the architectural history and the supposedly occult riddles of Chartres. The Saint-Lubin crypt under the choir dates from the 9th century, but includes extensive remains of ancient masonry. And the Romanesque Saint-Fulbert crypt under the choir head and the side aisles is the largest of its kind in France. Its central section, which was filled in during the medieval construction work, certainly still harbors many archaeological treasures, especially since the nearby chapel “Notre-Dame de Sous Terre” marks the exact place where a prehistoric mother goddess was venerated up to the time of Christianization. The »Underground Mother of God«, visited by many pilgrims there to this day, corresponds to the »Vierge du Pilier« in the upper church, the protector of children from the early 16th century. The oldest Our Lady of Chartres is, however, the “Madonna of the Beautiful Window” – “Notre-Dame de la Belle Verrière” – who smiles and looks out of one of the splendid stained glass windows on the south side of the choir over the crowd of believers and admirers.