Cathedral of Chartres
Overview
 
The French medieval Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres is a Latin Rite Catholic cathedral located in Chartres
Chartres
Chartres is a commune and capital of the Eure-et-Loir department in northern France. It is located southwest of Paris.-Geography:Chartres is built on the left bank of the Eure River, on a hill crowned by its famous cathedral, the spires of which are a landmark in the surrounding country...

, about 80 kilometres (49.7 mi) southwest of Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, is considered one of the finest examples of the French High Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 style. The current cathedral, mostly constructed between 1193 and 1250, is one of at least five which have occupied the site since the town became a bishopric
Episcopal See
An episcopal see is, in the original sense, the official seat of a bishop. This seat, which is also referred to as the bishop's cathedra, is placed in the bishop's principal church, which is therefore called the bishop's cathedral...

 in the 4th century.

What makes the cathedral special from an artistic viewpoint is its exceptional state of preservation.
Encyclopedia
The French medieval Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres is a Latin Rite Catholic cathedral located in Chartres
Chartres
Chartres is a commune and capital of the Eure-et-Loir department in northern France. It is located southwest of Paris.-Geography:Chartres is built on the left bank of the Eure River, on a hill crowned by its famous cathedral, the spires of which are a landmark in the surrounding country...

, about 80 kilometres (49.7 mi) southwest of Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, is considered one of the finest examples of the French High Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 style. The current cathedral, mostly constructed between 1193 and 1250, is one of at least five which have occupied the site since the town became a bishopric
Episcopal See
An episcopal see is, in the original sense, the official seat of a bishop. This seat, which is also referred to as the bishop's cathedra, is placed in the bishop's principal church, which is therefore called the bishop's cathedral...

 in the 4th century.

What makes the cathedral special from an artistic viewpoint is its exceptional state of preservation. The majority of the original stained glass windows survive intact, while the architecture has seen only minor changes since the early 13th century. The building's exterior is dominated by heavy flying buttress
Flying buttress
A flying buttress is a specific form of buttressing most strongly associated with Gothic church architecture. The purpose of any buttress is to resist the lateral forces pushing a wall outwards by redirecting them to the ground...

es which allowed the architects to increase the window size significantly, while the west end is dominated by 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
Flamboyant
Flamboyant is the name given to a florid style of late Gothic architecture in vogue in France from the 14th to the early 16th century, a version of which spread to Spain and Portugal during the 15th century; the equivalent stylistic period in English architecture is called the Decorated Style, and...

 spire on top of an older tower. Equally notable are the three great façades, each adorned with hundreds of sculpted figures illustrating key theological themes and narratives.

Since at least the 12th century the cathedral has been an important destination for travellers - and remains so to this day, attracting large numbers of Christian pilgrims, many of whom come to venerate its famous relic, the Sancta Camisa, said to be the tunic worn by the Virgin Mary at Christ's birth, as well as large numbers of secular tourists who come to see this UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

.

History

Social and economic context

As with any medieval bishopric
Episcopal See
An episcopal see is, in the original sense, the official seat of a bishop. This seat, which is also referred to as the bishop's cathedra, is placed in the bishop's principal church, which is therefore called the bishop's cathedral...

, Chartres Cathedral was the most important building in the town - the centre of its economy
Economic system
An economic system is the combination of the various agencies, entities that provide the economic structure that defines the social community. These agencies are joined by lines of trade and exchange along which goods, money etc. are continuously flowing. An example of such a system for a closed...

, its most famous landmark
Landmark
This is a list of landmarks around the world.Landmarks may be split into two categories - natural phenomena and man-made features, like buildings, bridges, statues, public squares and so forth...

 and the focal point of many activities that in modern towns are provided for by specialised civic
Civic engagement
Civic engagement or civic participation has been defined as "Individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern."-Forms:...

 buildings. In the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, the cathedral functioned as a kind of marketplace, with different commercial activities centred around the different portals, particularly during the regular fairs. Textiles were sold around the north transept, while meat, vegetables and fuel sellers congregated around the south porch. Money-changers (an essential service at a time when each town or region had its own currency) had their benches, or banques, near the west portals and also in the nave itself. Wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

 sellers plied their trade in the nave, although occasional 13th century ordinances survive which record them being temporarily banished to the crypt to minimise disturbances. Workers of various professions gathered in particular locations around the cathedral awaiting offers of work.

Although the town of Chartres was under the judicial and tax authority of the Counts of Blois, the area immediately surrounding the cathedral, known as the cloître, was in effect a free-trade zone governed by the church authorities, who were entitled to the taxes from all commercial activity taking place there. As well as greatly increasing the cathedral's income, throughout the 12th and 13th centuries this led to regular disputes, often violent, between the bishops, the chapter and the civic authorities - particularly when serfs belonging to the counts transferred their trade (and taxes) to the cathedral. In 1258, after a series of bloody riots instigated by the count's officials, the chapter finally gained permission from the King to seal off the area of the cloître and lock the gates each night.

Pilgrimages and the legend of the Sancta Camisa

Even before the Gothic cathedral was built, Chartres was a place of pilgrimage, albeit on a much smaller scale. During the Merovingian and early Carolingian eras, the main focus of devotion for pilgrims was a well (now located in the north side of Fulbert's crypt), known as the Puits des Saints-Forts, or the 'Well of the Strong Saints', into which it was believed the bodies of various local Early-Christian martyrs (including saints Piat, Cheron, Modesta and Potentianus) had been tossed. The widespread belief that the cathedral was also the site of a pre-Christian druidical sect who worshipped a 'Virgin who will give birth' is purely a late-medieval invention.

In c.876 the cathedral acquired the Sancta Camisa, believed to be the tunic worn by the Blessed Virgin Mary at the time of Christ's birth. According to legend, the relic
Relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

 was given to the cathedral by Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 who received it as a gift from Emperor Constantine VI during a crusade
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 to Jerusalem, however this legend was pure fiction (Charlemagne never went to the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

) - probably invented in the 11th century to authenticate some relics at the Abbey of St Denis. In fact, the relic was a gift to the cathedral from Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald , Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia , was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious by his second wife Judith.-Struggle against his brothers:He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt, when his elder...

 and there is no evidence for its being an important object of pilgrimage prior to the 12th century.

By the end of the 12th century however, the church had become one of the most important popular pilgrimage destinations in Europe. There were four great fairs which coincided with the main feast days
Calendar of saints
The calendar of saints is a traditional Christian method of organizing a liturgical year by associating each day with one or more saints and referring to the feast day of said saint...

 of the Virgin: the Presentation
Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, which falls on 2 February, celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and some Eastern Catholic Churches, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts, and is sometimes called Hypapante...

, the Annunciation
Annunciation
The Annunciation, also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary or Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Virgin Mary, that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her...

, the Assumption
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

 and the Nativity
Nativity of Jesus
The Nativity of Jesus, or simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus in two of the Canonical gospels and in various apocryphal texts....

. The fairs were held in the area administered by the cathedral and were attended by many of the pilgrims in town to see the cloak of the Virgin.
Specific pilgrimages were also held in response to outbreaks of disease.
When ergotism
Ergotism
Ergotism is the effect of long-term ergot poisoning, traditionally due to the ingestion of the alkaloids produced by the Claviceps purpurea fungus which infects rye and other cereals, and more recently by the action of a number of ergoline-based drugs. It is also known as ergotoxicosis, ergot...

 (more popularly known in the Middle Ages as "St. Anthony's fire") afflicted many victims, the crypt
Crypt
In architecture, a crypt is a stone chamber or vault beneath the floor of a burial vault possibly containing sarcophagi, coffins or relics....

 of the original church became a hospital to care for the sick.

Today Chartres continues to attract large numbers of pilgrims, many of whom come to walk slowly around the labyrinth, their heads bowed in prayer - an entirely modern devotional practice but one which the Cathedral authorities accommodate by removing the chairs from the nave once a month.

Earlier buildings and the west façade

There have been at least five cathedrals on this site, each replacing an earlier building damaged by war or fire. Nothing survives of the earliest church, which was destroyed during an attack on the city by the Danes in 858. Of the Carolingian church that replaced it, all that remains is a semicircular chamber located directly below the centre of the present apse. This chamber, known as the Lubinus
Leobinus
Saint Leobinus was a hermit, abbot, and bishop. The son of a peasant family, he became a hermit and a monk of Micy before being ordained a priest. He was then elected abbot of Brou and then around 544, became Bishop of Chartres, succeeding Etherius with the consent of Childebert I.-External...

 Crypt (named after the mid-6th century Bishop of Chartres), is lower than the rest of the crypt and may have been the shrine of a local saint, prior to the church's rededication to the Virgin. Another fire in 962 is mentioned in the annals, though nothing is known about the subsequent rebuilding. A more serious conflagration occurred in 1020, after which Bishop Fulbert
Fulbert of Chartres
Fulbert of Chartres –10 April 1028) was the bishop of the Cathedral of Chartres from 1006 till 1028. He was a teacher at the Cathedral school there, he was responsible for the advancement of the celebration of the Feast day of “Nativity of the Virgin”, and he was responsible for one of the...

 (bishop from 1006 to 1028) began the construction of an entirely new building. Most of the present crypt
Crypt
In architecture, a crypt is a stone chamber or vault beneath the floor of a burial vault possibly containing sarcophagi, coffins or relics....

, which is the largest in France, dates from that period. The rebuilding proceeded in phases over the next hundred years or so, culminating in 1145 in a display of public enthusiasm dubbed the "Cult of the Carts
Cult of Carts
Cult of Carts is a term coined by the architectural historian A. K. Porter to describe various occasions in western Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, when ordinary lay-people harnessed themselves to carts in the place of oxen in order to transport building materials to cathedral building...

" - one of several such incidents recorded during the period. It was claimed that during this religious outburst a crowd of more than a thousand penitents
Penance
Penance is repentance of sins as well as the proper name of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Anglican Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation/Confession. It also plays a part in non-sacramental confession among Lutherans and other Protestants...

 dragged carts filled with building supplies and provisions including stones, wood, grain, etc. to the site.

In 1134 another fire damaged the town, and perhaps part of the cathedral. The north tower was started immediately afterwards - the south tower some time later. From the beginning it was intended that these towers flank a central porch of some sort and a narthex
Narthex
The narthex of a church is the entrance or lobby area, located at the end of the nave, at the far end from the church's main altar. Traditionally the narthex was a part of the church building, but was not considered part of the church proper...

. When the north tower rose to the level of the second story the south was begun - the evidence lies in the profiles and in the masons marks on the two levels of the two towers. Between them on the first level, a chapel was constructed to Saint Michael. Traces of the vaults and the shafts which supported them are still visible in the western two bays. This chapel was probably vaulted, and those vaults saved the western glass. The stained glass in the three lancets over the portals date from some time between 1145 and 1155, while the south spire, some 103 meters high, was also completed by 1155 or later.

Work was begun on the Royal Portal with the south lintel around 1136 and with all its sculpture installed up to 1141. Opinions are uncertain as the sizes and styles of the figures vary and some elements, such as the lintel over the right hand portal, have clearly been cut down to fit the available spaces. The sculpture was originally designed for these portals but the layouts were changed by successive masters, see careful lithic analysis by John James. Either way, most of the carving follows the exceptionally high standard typical of this period and exercised a strong influence on the subsequent development of gothic portal design.

Some of the masters have been identified by John James, and drafts of these studies have been published on the web site of the International Center of Medieval Art, New York, accessible in pdf format at http://medievalart.org/?page_id=214.

Construction of the present cathedral

On 10 June 1194, another fire caused extensive damage to Fulbert's cathedral. The true extent of the damage is unknown, though the fact that the lead came
Came
A came is a divider bar used between small pieces of glass to make a larger glazing panel, sometimes referred to as leaded glass. This process is then referred to as "leading". Cames are mostly made of soft metals such as lead, zinc, copper or brass. They generally have an H-shaped cross section,...

s holding the west windows together survived the conflagration intact suggests contemporary accounts of the terrible devastation may have been exaggerated. Either way, the opportunity was taken to begin a complete rebuilding of the choir and nave in the latest style. The undamaged western towers and façade were incorporated into the new works, as was the earlier crypt, effectively limiting the designers of the new building to the same general plan as its predecessor. In fact the present building is only marginally longer than Fulbert's cathedral.

One of the unusual features of Chartres cathedral is the speed with which it was built - a factor which helped contribute to the consistency of its design. Even though there were innumerable changes to the details, the plan remains remarkably consistent. The major change occurred six years after work began when the seven deep chapels around the choir opening off a single ambulatory were turned into shallow recesses opening off a double-aisled ambulatory.

Australian architectural historian John James, who made a detailed study of the cathedral, has estimated that there were about 300 men working on the site at any one time, although it has to be acknowledged that our knowledge of working practices at this time is somewhat limited. Normally medieval churches were built from east to west so that the choir could be completed first and put into use (with a temporary wall sealing off the west end) while the crossing and nave were completed. Canon Delaporte argued that building work started at the crossing and proceeded outwards from there, but the evidence in the stonework itself is unequivocal, especially within the level of the triforium: the nave was at all times more advanced than ambulatory bays of the choir, and this has been confirmed by dendrochronology.

The history of the cathedral has been plagued by more theories than any other, a singular problem for those attempting to discover the truth. For example Louis Grodecki argued that the lateral doors of the transept portals were cut through the walls at a later date, and van der Meulan that they had wanted to rebuild the western portals (then only 50 years old). None of these theories refer back to the actual stonework, and it is only when you have done so, as John James did exhaustively in 1969, that you realize that the construction process was in fact simple and logical.

It is important to remember that the builders were not working on a clean site but would have had to clear back the rubble and surviving parts of the old church as they built the new. Nevertheless, work progressed rapidly. The south porch with most of its sculpture was installed by 1210, and by 1215 the north porch had been completed and the western rose installed. The nave high vaults were erected in the 1220s, the canons moved into their new stalls in 1221 under a temporary roof at the level of the clerestory, and the transept roses were erected over the subsequent two decades. The high vaults over the choir were not built until the last years of the 1250s, as has just been discovered. The cathedral was then dedicated in 1260 by King Louis whose coat of arms was painted over the apsidal boss.

Each arm of the transept was originally meant to support two towers, two more were to flank the choir, and there was to have been a central lantern over the crossing - nine towers in all. Plans for a crossing tower were abandoned in 1221 and the crossing was vaulted over. Work on the remaining six towers continued at a slower pace for some decades, until it was decided to leave them without spires (as at Laon Cathedral and elsewhere). The cathedral was consecrated in 1260, in the presence of King Louis IX
Louis IX of France
Louis IX , commonly Saint Louis, was King of France from 1226 until his death. He was also styled Louis II, Count of Artois from 1226 to 1237. Born at Poissy, near Paris, he was an eighth-generation descendant of Hugh Capet, and thus a member of the House of Capet, and the son of Louis VIII and...

.
Compared with other medieval churches, relatively few changes have been made to the cathedral since its consecration. In 1323 a substantial two story construction was added at the eastern end of the choir, with a chapel dedicated to Saint Piat in the upper floor accessed by a staircase opening onto the ambulatory (the chapel of St Piat is normally closed to visitors, although it occasionally houses temporary exhibitions). The chamber below the chapel served the canons as their chapter house
Chapter house
A chapter house or chapterhouse is a building or room attached to a cathedral or collegiate church in which meetings are held. They can also be found in medieval monasteries....

.

Shortly after 1417, a small chapel was placed between the buttresses of the south nave for the Count of Vendôme. At the same time the small organ that had been built in the nave aisle was moved up into the triforium where it remains, though some time in the sixteenth century it was replaced with a larger one on a raised platform at the western end of the building. To this end, some of the interior shafts in the western bay were removed and plans made to rebuild the organ there. In the event, this plan was abandoned, the glass in the western lancets was retained and the old organ was replaced with the present one.

In 1506, lightning destroyed the north spire, which was rebuilt in the 'Flamboyant' style by local mason Jehan de Beauce (who also worked on the abbey church in Vendôme
Vendôme
Vendôme is a commune in the Centre region of France.-Administration:Vendôme is the capital of the arrondissement of Vendôme in the Loir-et-Cher department, of which it is a sub-prefecture. It has a tribunal of first instance.-Geography:...

). It is 113 meters high and took seven years to construct. After its completion Jehan continued working on the cathedral, and began the monumental screen around the choir stalls, which was not completed until the beginning of the eighteenth century.

In 1757, a number of changes were made to the interior to increase the visibility of the Mass, in accordance with changing religious customs. The jubé (choir screen) that separated the liturgical choir from the nave was torn down and the present stalls built (some of the magnificent sculpture from this screen was later found buried underneath the paving and preserved, though sadly is not on public display). At the same time, some of the stained glass in the clerestory was removed and replaced with grisaille
Grisaille
Grisaille is a term for painting executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of grey. It is particularly used in large decorative schemes in imitation of sculpture. Many grisailles in fact include a slightly wider colour range, like the Andrea del Sarto fresco...

 windows, greatly increasing the illumination of the High Altar.

In 1836, the old lead-covered roof, with its complex structure of timber supports (known as 'the forest') was destroyed by fire. It was replaced with a copper-clad roof supported by a network of cast iron ribs, known as the Charpente de fer. At the time, the framework over the crossing had the largest span of any iron framed construction in Europe.

French Revolution

The cathedral was damaged in the French Revolution when a mob began to destroy the sculpture on the north porch. This is one of the few occasions on which the anti-religious fervour was stopped by the townfolk. The Revolutionary Committee decided to destroy the cathedral via explosives, and asked a local architect to organise it. He saved the building by pointing out that the vast amount of rubble from the demolished building would so clog the streets it would take years to clear away. However, when metal was needed for the army the brass plaque in the centre of the labyrinth was removed and melted down - our only record of what was on the plaque was Felibien's description.

The Cathedral of Chartres was therefore neither destroyed nor looted during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 and the numerous restorations have not diminished its reputation as a triumph of Gothic art
Gothic art
Gothic art was a Medieval art movement that developed in France out of Romanesque art in the mid-12th century, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, but took over art more completely north of the Alps, never quite effacing more classical...

. The cathedral has been fortunate in being spared the damage suffered by so many during the Wars of Religion and the Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, 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.

World War II

All the glass from the cathedral was removed in 1939 just before the Germans invaded France, and it was cleaned after the War and releaded before replacing.

While the city suffered heavy damage by bombing in the course of World War II, the cathedral was spared by an American Army officer who challenged the order to destroy it.

Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. questioned the strategy of destroying the cathedral and volunteered to go behind enemy lines to find out whether the German Army was occupying the cathedral and using it as an observation post. With a single enlisted soldier to assist, Griffith proceeded to the cathedral and confirmed that the Germans were not using it. After he returned from his reconnaissance, he reported that the cathedral was clear of enemy troops. The order to destroy the cathedral was withdrawn, and the Allies later liberated the area. Griffith was killed in action on August 16, 1944, in the town of Leves, near Chartres.

Current history

The cathedral was added to UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

's list of World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

s in 1979.

In the last decade the fabric has seen an almost continuous program of cleaning and restoration. In recent years a major project has been underway to clean all the stone vaults of the choir and nave and repaint them in emulation of the 13th century polychromy.

The cathedral is still the seat of the Bishop of Chartres
Roman Catholic Diocese of Chartres
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Chartres is a Roman Catholic Latin Rite diocese in France.The diocese is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Tours.-Pilgrimages:...

 of the Diocese of Chartres
Roman Catholic Diocese of Chartres
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Chartres is a Roman Catholic Latin Rite diocese in France.The diocese is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Tours.-Pilgrimages:...

, though in the ecclesiastical province of Tours.

Statistics

  • Length: 130 metres (426.5 ft)
  • Width: 32 metres (105 ft) / 46 metres (150.9 ft)
  • Nave: height 37 metres (121.4 ft); width 16.4 metres (53.8 ft)
  • Ground area: 10875 square metres (117,057.5 sq ft)
  • Height of south-west tower: 105 metres (344.5 ft)
  • Height of north-west tower: 113 metres (370.7 ft)
  • 176 stained-glass windows
  • Choir enclosure: 200 statues in 41 scenes

Plan and elevation

The plan is cruciform. A two bay narthex
Narthex
The narthex of a church is the entrance or lobby area, located at the end of the nave, at the far end from the church's main altar. Traditionally the narthex was a part of the church building, but was not considered part of the church proper...

 at the western end opens into a seven bay nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 leading to the crossing, from which wide transept
Transept
For the periodical go to The Transept.A transept is a transverse section, of any building, which lies across the main body of the building. In Christian churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform building in Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architecture...

s extend three bays each to north and south. East of the crossing are four rectangular bays terminating in a semicircular apse. The nave and transepts are flanked by single aisles, broadening to a double-aisled ambulatory
Ambulatory
The ambulatory is the covered passage around a cloister. The term is sometimes applied to the procession way around the east end of a cathedral or large church and behind the high altar....

 around the choir and apse (see plan). From the ambulatory radiate three deep semi-circular chapel
Chapel
A chapel is a building used by Christians as a place of fellowship and worship. It may be part of a larger structure or complex, such as a church, college, hospital, palace, prison or funeral home, located on board a military or commercial ship, or it may be an entirely free-standing building,...

s (overlying the deep chapels of Fulbert
Fulbert of Chartres
Fulbert of Chartres –10 April 1028) was the bishop of the Cathedral of Chartres from 1006 till 1028. He was a teacher at the Cathedral school there, he was responsible for the advancement of the celebration of the Feast day of “Nativity of the Virgin”, and he was responsible for one of the...

's 11th-century crypt) and four much shallower ones. Of the latter, one was effectively lost in the 1320s when the Chapel of St Piat
Saint Piatus
Saint Piatus of Tournai was a Belgian saint. He was a native of Benevento, and is traditionally said to have been sent by the pope to evangelize the cities of Chartres and Tournai. Tradition also states that he was ordained by Dionysios the Areopagite...

 was built.

The elevation of the nave is three-storied, with arcade, triforium
Triforium
A triforium is a shallow arched gallery within the thickness of inner wall, which stands above the nave of a church or cathedral. It may occur at the level of the clerestory windows, or it may be located as a separate level below the clerestory. It may itself have an outer wall of glass rather than...

 and clerestory
Clerestory
Clerestory is an architectural term that historically denoted an upper level of a Roman basilica or of the nave of a Romanesque or Gothic church, the walls of which rise above the rooflines of the lower aisles and are pierced with windows. In modern usage, clerestory refers to any high windows...

 levels. By eschewing the gallery level that featured in many early Gothic cathedrals (normally between arcade and triforium), the designers were able to make the richly glazed arcade and clerestory levels larger and almost equal in height, with just a narrow dark triforium in between. Although not the first example of this three-part elevation, Chartres was perhaps the first of the great churches to make a success of it and to use the same design consistently throughout. The result was a far greater area of window openings. These windows were entirely glazed with densely colored glass, which resulted in a relatively dark interior - but one which accentuated the richness of the glass and the colored light that filtered through them.

Increasing the size of the windows meant reducing the wall area considerably, something which was made possible only by the extensive use of flying buttresses on the outside. These buttresses supported the considerable lateral thrusts resulting from the 34m high stone vaults
Vault (architecture)
A Vault is an architectural term for an arched form used to provide a space with a ceiling or roof. The parts of a vault exert lateral thrust that require a counter resistance. When vaults are built underground, the ground gives all the resistance required...

, higher and wider than any attempted before in France. These vaults were quadripartite, each bay split into four webs by two diagonally crossing ribs, unlike the sexpartite vault
Sexpartite vault
Sexpartite vault, in architecture, is a rib vault divided into six bays by two diagonal ribs and three transverse ribs.The principal examples are those in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes and Abbaye-aux-Dames at Caen , Notre Dame de Paris, and the cathedrals of Bourges, Laon, Noyon, Senlis and Sens; from...

s adopted in many earlier Gothic cathedrals such as at Laon.

Another architectural breakthrough at Chartres was a resolution to the problem of how to arrange attached columns or shafts around a pier
Pier (architecture)
In architecture, a pier is an upright support for a superstructure, such as an arch or bridge. Sections of wall between openings function as piers. The simplest cross section of the pier is square, or rectangular, although other shapes are also common, such as the richly articulated piers of Donato...

 in a way that worked aesthetically - but which also satisfied the desire for structural logic that characterised French high gothic. The nave at Chartres features alternating round and octagonal solid cored piers, each of which has four attached half-columns at the cardinal points, two of these (on the east-west axis) support the arches of the arcade, one acts as the springing for the aisle vault and one supports the cluster of shafts that rise through the triforium and clerestory to support the high-vault ribs. This pier design, known as pilier cantonné
Pilier cantonné
A pilier cantonné is a type of compound pier commonly associated with High Gothic architecture. First used in the construction of the Chartres Cathedral, the pilier cantonné has four colonettes attached to a large central core that support the arcade, aisle vaults and nave-vaulting responds....

was to prove highly influential and subsequently featured in a number of other high gothic churches.

Although the sculpture on the portals at Chartres is generally of a high standard, the various carved elements inside, such as the capitals and string courses, are relatively poorly finished (when compared for example with those at Reims
Reims Cathedral
Notre-Dame de Reims is the Roman Catholic cathedral of Reims, where the kings of France were once crowned. It replaces an older church, destroyed by a fire in 1211, which was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original...

 or Soissons
Soissons Cathedral
Soissons Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral in Soissons, France. The construction of the south transept was begun about 1177, and the lowest courses of the choir in 1182. The choir with its original three-storey elevation and extremely tall clerestory was completed in 1211...

) - the reason is simply that the portals were carved from the finest Parisian limestone, or ' 'calcaire' ', while the internal capitals were carved from the local Berchere stone that is hard to work and can be brittle.

Windows

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Chartres Cathedral is the extent to which architectural structure has been adapted to meet the needs of stained glass. The use of a three-part elevation with external buttressing allowed for far larger windows than earlier designs, particularly at the clerestory level. Most cathedrals of the period had a mixture of windows containing plain or grisaille
Grisaille
Grisaille is a term for painting executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of grey. It is particularly used in large decorative schemes in imitation of sculpture. Many grisailles in fact include a slightly wider colour range, like the Andrea del Sarto fresco...

 glass and windows containing dense stained glass panels, with the result that the brightness of the former tended to diminish the impact and legibility of the latter. At Chartres, nearly all of the 176 windows were filled with equally dense stained glass, creating a relatively dark but richly coloured interior in which the light filtering through the myriad narrative and symbolic windows was the main source of illumination.

12th century windows

The majority of the windows now visible at Chartres were made and installed between 1205 and 1240, however four lancets preserve panels of Romanesque
Romanesque art
Romanesque art refers to the art of Western Europe from approximately 1000 AD to the rise of the Gothic style in the 13th century, or later, depending on region. The preceding period is increasingly known as the Pre-Romanesque...

 glass from the 12th century which survived the fire of 1195. Three of these are located beneath the rose in the west façade; the Passion
Passion (Christianity)
The Passion is the Christian theological term used for the events and suffering – physical, spiritual, and mental – of Jesus in the hours before and including his trial and execution by crucifixion...

 window to the south, the Infancy of Christ
Life of Christ
The Life of Christ as a narrative cycle in Christian art comprises a number of different subjects, which were often grouped in series or cycles of works in a variety of media, narrating the life of Jesus on earth, as distinguished from the many other subjects in art showing the eternal life of...

 in the centre and a Tree of Jesse
Tree of Jesse
The Tree of Jesse is a depiction in art of the Ancestors of Christ, shown in a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David; the original use of the family tree as a schematic representation of a genealogy...

 to the north. All three of these windows were originally made around 1145 but were restored in the early 13th century and again in the 19th. The other 12th century window, perhaps the most famous at Chartres is the so called Belle Verrière, found in the first bay of the choir after the south transept. This window is actually a composite; the upper part, showing the Virgin and child surrounded by adoring angels, dates from around 1180 and was probably positioned at the centre of the apse in the earlier building. The Virgin is depicted wearing a blue robe and sitting in a frontal pose on a throne, with the Christ Child seated on her lap raising his hand in blessing. This composition, known as the Sedes sapientia
Seat of Wisdom
In the Roman Catholic tradition, the epithet "the Seat of Wisdom" or "Throne of Wisdom" is identified with one of many devotional titles for the Mother of God...

 ('Throne of Wisdom'), which also appears on the Portail Royale, is based on the famous cult figure kept in the crypt. The lower part or the window, showing scenes from the Infancy of Christ dates from the main glazing campaign around 1225.

Lower windows

Each bay of the aisles and the choir ambulatory contains one large lancet window, most of them roughly 8.1m high by 2.2m wide. The subjects depicted in these windows, made between 1205 and 1235, include stories from the Old and New Testament and the Lives of the Saints as well as typological cycles and symbolic images such as the signs of the zodiac and labours of the months. Most windows are made up of around 25-30 individual panels showing distinct episodes within the narrative - only the Belle Verrière (see above) includes a larger image made up of multiple panels.

Several of the windows at Chartres include images of local tradesmen or labourers in the lowest two or three panels, often with fascinating details of their equipment and working methods. Traditionally it was claimed that these images represented the guilds of the donors who paid for the windows. In recent years however this view has largely been discounted, not least because each window would have cost around as much as a large mansion house to make - while most of the labourers depicted would have been subsistence workers with little or no disposable income. Furthermore, although they became powerful and wealthy organisations in the later medieval period, none of these trade guilds had actually been founded when the glass was being made in the early 13th century. A more likely explanation is that the Cathedral clergy wanted to emphasise the universal reach of the Church, particularly at a time when their relationship with the local community was often a troubled one.

Clerestory windows

Because of their greater distance from the viewer, the windows in the clerestory
Clerestory
Clerestory is an architectural term that historically denoted an upper level of a Roman basilica or of the nave of a Romanesque or Gothic church, the walls of which rise above the rooflines of the lower aisles and are pierced with windows. In modern usage, clerestory refers to any high windows...

 generally adopt simpler, bolder designs. Most feature the standing figure of a saint or Apostle in the upper two-thirds, often with one or two simplified narrative scenes in the lower part, either to help identify the figure or else to remind the viewer of some key event in their life. Whereas the lower windows in the nave arcades and the ambulatory consist of one simple lancet per bay, the clerestory windows are each made up of a pair of lancets with a plate-traceried rose window above. The nave and transept clerestory windows mainly depict saints and Old Testament prophets. Those in the choir depict the kings of France and Castille and members of the local nobility in the straight bays, while the windows in the apse
Apse
In architecture, the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome...

 hemicycle show those Old Testament prophets who foresaw the virgin birth, flanking scenes of the Annunciation
Annunciation
The Annunciation, also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary or Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Virgin Mary, that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her...

, Visitation and Nativity
Nativity of Jesus
The Nativity of Jesus, or simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus in two of the Canonical gospels and in various apocryphal texts....

 in the axial window.

Rose windows

The cathedral has three large rose windows.
The western rose, made c.1215 and 12m in diameter shows the Last Judgement - a traditional theme for west façades. A central oculus
Oculus
An Oculus, circular window, or rain-hole is a feature of Classical architecture since the 16th century. They are often denoted by their French name, oeil de boeuf, or "bull's-eye". Such circular or oval windows express the presence of a mezzanine on a building's façade without competing for...

 showing Christ as the Judge is surrounded by an inner ring of 12 paired roundels containing angels and the Elders of the Apocalypse and an outer ring of 12 roundels showing the dead emerging from their tombs and the angels blowing trumpets to summon them to judgement.

The north transept rose (10.5m diameter, made c.1235), like much of the sculpture in the north porch beneath it, is dedicated to the Virgin. The central oculus shows the Virgin and Child and is surrounded by 12 small petal-shaped windows, 4 with doves (the 'Four Gifts of the Spirit'), the rest with adoring angels carrying candlesticks. Beyond this is a ring of 12 diamond-shaped openings containing the Old Testament Kings of Judah
Kings of Judah
The Kings of Judah ruled the ancient Kingdom of Judah after the death of Saul, when the tribe of Judah elevated David to rule over it. After seven years, David became king of a reunited Kingdom of Israel. However, in about 930 BC the united kingdom split, with ten of the twelve Tribes of Israel...

, another ring of smaller lozenges containing the arms of France and Castille
Kingdom of Castile
Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. It emerged as a political autonomous entity in the 9th century. It was called County of Castile and was held in vassalage from the Kingdom of León. Its name comes from the host of castles constructed in the region...

, and finally a ring of semicircles containing Old Testament Prophets holding scrolls. The presence of the arms of the French king (yellow fleurs-de-lis
Fleur-de-lis
The fleur-de-lis or fleur-de-lys is a stylized lily or iris that is used as a decorative design or symbol. It may be "at one and the same time, political, dynastic, artistic, emblematic, and symbolic", especially in heraldry...

 on a blue background) and of his mother, Blanche of Castile
Blanche of Castile
Blanche of Castile , was a Queen consort of France as the wife of Louis VIII. She acted as regent twice during the reign of her son, Louis IX....

 (yellow castles on a red background) are taken as a sign of royal patronage for this window. Beneath the rose itself are five tall lancet windows (7.5m high) showing, in the centre, the Virgin as an infant held by her mother, St Anne - the same subject as the trumeau in the portal beneath it. Flanking this lancet are four more containing Old Testament figures. Each of these standing figures is shown symbolically triumphing over an enemy depicted in the base of the lancet beneath them - David over Saul, Aaron over Pharaoh, St Anne over Synagoga, etc.

The south transept rose (10.5m diameter, made c.1225-30) is dedicated to Christ, who is shown in the central oculus, right hand raised in benediction
Benediction
A benediction is a short invocation for divine help, blessing and guidance, usually at the end of worship service.-Judaism:...

, surrounded by adoring angels. Two outer rings of twelve circles each contain the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse
Apocalypse
An Apocalypse is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted. The Apocalypse of John is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament...

, crowned and carrying phials and musical instruments. The central lancet beneath the rose shows the Virgin carrying the infant Christ. Either side of this are four lancets showing the four evangelists sitting on the shoulders of four Prophets - a rare literal illustration of the theological principle that the New Testament builds upon the Old Testament. This window was a donation of the Mauclerc family, the Counts of Dreux-Bretagne, who are depicted with their arms in the bases of the lancets.

Post 13th century changes to the windows

On the whole, Chartres' windows have been remarkably fortunate. The medieval glass largely escaped harm during the Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

 iconoclasm
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

 and the religious wars
French Wars of Religion
The French Wars of Religion is the name given to a period of civil infighting and military operations, primarily fought between French Catholics and Protestants . The conflict involved the factional disputes between the aristocratic houses of France, such as the House of Bourbon and House of Guise...

 of the 16th century although the west rose sustained damage from artillery fire in 1591. The relative darkness of the interior seems to have been a problem for some. A few windows were replaced with much lighter grisaille glass in the 14th century to improve illumination, particularly on the north side and several more were replaced with clear glass in 1753 as part of the reforms to liturgical practice that also led to the removal of the jubé. The installation of the Vendôme Chapel between two buttresses of the nave in the early 15th century resulted in the loss of one more lancet window, though it did allow for the insertion of a fine late-gothic window with donor portrait
Donor portrait
A donor portrait or votive portrait is a portrait in a larger painting or other work showing the person who commissioned and paid for the image, or a member of his, or her, family...

s of Louis de Bourbon
Louis, Count of Vendôme
Louis of Bourbon-La Marche , younger son of John I, Count of La Marche and Catherine de Vendôme, was Count of Vendôme from 1393 and Count of Castres from 1425 until his death....

 and his family witnessing the Coronation of the Virgin
Coronation of the Virgin
The Coronation of the Virgin or Coronation of Mary is a subject in Christian art, especially popular in Italy in the 13th to 15th centuries, but continuing in popularity until the 18th century and beyond. Christ, sometimes accompanied by God the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove,...

 with assorted saints.

Although estimates vary (depending on how one counts compound or grouped windows) approximately 152 of the original 176 stained glass windows survive - far more than any other medieval cathedral anywhere in the world.

Like most medieval buildings, the windows at Chartres suffered badly from the corrosive effects of atmospheric acids during the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 and subsequently. The majority of windows were cleaned and restored by the famous local workshop Atelier Lorin at the end of the 19th century but they continued to deteriorate. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 most of the stained glass was removed from the cathedral and stored in the surrounding countryside to protect it from damage. At the close of the war the windows were taken out of storage and reinstalled. Since then an ongoing programme of conservation has been underway and isothermal secondary glazing is gradually been installed on the exterior to protect the windows from further damage.

Portals

The cathedral has three great façade
Facade
A facade or façade is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front. The word comes from the French language, literally meaning "frontage" or "face"....

s, each equipped with three portals
Portal (architecture)
Portal is a general term describing an opening in the walls of a building, gate or fortification, and especially a grand entrance to an important structure. Doors, metal gates or portcullis in the opening can be used to control entry or exit. The surface surrounding the opening may be made of...

, opening into the nave from the west and into the transepts from north and south. In each façade the central portal is particularly large and was only used for special ceremonies, while the smaller side portals allowed everyday access for the different communities that used the cathedral

West façade: Portail Royale

One of the few elements to survive from the mid-12th century church, the Portail Royale was integrated into the new cathedral built after the 1194 fire. Opening onto the parvis (the large square in front of the cathedral where markets were held), the two lateral doors would have been the first entry point for most visitors to Chartres, as it remains today. The central door was only opened for the entry of processions on major festivals, of which the most important was the Adventus or installation of a new bishop. The harmonious appearance of the façade results in part from the relative proportions of the central and lateral portals, whose widths are in the ratio 10:7 - one of the common medieval approximations of the square root of 2
Square root of 2
The square root of 2, often known as root 2, is the positive algebraic number that, when multiplied by itself, gives the number 2. It is more precisely called the principal square root of 2, to distinguish it from the negative number with the same property.Geometrically the square root of 2 is the...

.

As well as their basic functions of controlling access to the interior, portals were the main locations for sculpted images on the gothic cathedral and it was on the west façade at Chartres that this practice began to develop into a visual summa
Summa
Summa and its diminutive summula are mainly used, in English and other modern languages, for texts that 'sum up' knowledge in a field, such as the compendiums of theology, philosophy and canon law which were used both as textbooks in the schools and as books of reference during the Middle...

or encyclopedia of theological knowledge. The three portals each focus on a different aspect of Christ's role; his earthly incarnation on the right, his second coming on the left and his eternal aspect in the centre.

Above the right portal, the lintel is carved in two registers with (lower) the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Annunciation to the Shepherds and (upper) the Presentation in the Temple. Above this the tympanum
Tympanum (architecture)
In architecture, a tympanum is the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments. Most architectural styles include this element....

 shows the Virgin and Child enthroned in the Sedes sapientiae
Seat of Wisdom
In the Roman Catholic tradition, the epithet "the Seat of Wisdom" or "Throne of Wisdom" is identified with one of many devotional titles for the Mother of God...

pose. Surrounding the tympanum, as a reminder of the glory days of the School of Chartres, the archivolt
Archivolt
An archivolt is an ornamental molding or band following the curve on the underside of an arch. It is composed of bands of ornamental moldings surrounding an arched opening, corresponding to the architrave in the case of a rectangular opening...

s are carved with some very distinctive personifications of the Seven Liberal Arts
Liberal arts
The term liberal arts refers to those subjects which in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free citizen to study. Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were the core liberal arts. In medieval times these subjects were extended to include mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy...

 as well as the classical authors and philosophers most associated with them.

The left portal is more enigmatic and art historians still argue over the correct identification. The tympanum shows Christ standing on a cloud, apparently supported by two angels. Some see this as a depiction of the Ascension of Christ (in which case the figures on the lower lintel would represent the disciples witnessing the event) while others see it as representing the Parousia, or Second Coming of Christ (in which case the lintel figures could be either the prophets who foresaw that event or else the 'Men of Galilee' mentioned in Acts 1:9-11). The presence of angels in the upper lintel, descending from a cloud and apparently shouting to those below, would seem to support the latter interpretation. The archivolts contain the signs of the zodiac
Zodiac
In astronomy, the zodiac is a circle of twelve 30° divisions of celestial longitude which are centred upon the ecliptic: the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year...

 and the labours of the months
Labours of the Months
The term Labours of the Months refers to cycles in Medieval and early Renaissance art depicting in twelve scenes the rural activities that commonly took place in the months of the year...

 - standard references to the cyclical nature of time which appear in many gothic portals.

The central portal is a more conventional representation of the End of Time as described in the Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

. In the centre of the tympanum is Christ within a mandorla, surrounded by the four symbols of the evangelists
Four Evangelists
In Christian tradition the Four Evangelists are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the authors attributed with the creation of the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament that bear the following titles:*Gospel according to Matthew*Gospel according to Mark...

 (the Tetramorph
Tetramorph
A tetramorph is a symbolic arrangement of four differing elements, or the combination of four disparate elements in one unit. The term is derived from the Greek tetra, meaning four, and morph, shape....

). The lintel shows the Twelve Apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

 while the archivolts show the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse.

Although the upper parts of the three portals are treated separately, two sculptural elements run horizontally across the façade, uniting its different parts. Most obvious are the jamb statues afixed to the columns flanking the doorways - tall, slender standing figures of kings and queens from whom the Portail Royale derived its name. Although in the 18th and 19th century these figures were mistakenly identified as the Merovingian monarchs of France (thus attracting the opprobrium of Revolutionary iconoclasts) they almost certainly represent the kings and queens of the Old Testament - another standard iconographical feature of gothic portals.

Less obvious than the jamb statues but far more intricately carved is the frieze
Frieze
thumb|267px|Frieze of the [[Tower of the Winds]], AthensIn architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon...

 that stretches all across the façade in the sculpted capitals on top of the jamb columns. Carved into these capitals is a very lengthy narrative depicting the life of the Virgin and the life and Passion of Christ.

North transept façade

In northern Europe it is common for the iconography on the north side of a church to focus on Old Testament themes, with stories from the lives of the saints and the Gospels being more prominent on the physically (and hence, spiritually) brighter southern side. Chartres is no exception to this general principle and the north transept portals, with their deep sheltering porches, concentrate on the precursors of Christ, leading up to the moment of his incarnation, with a particular emphasis on the Virgin Mary. The overall iconographical themes are clearly laid-out; the glorification of Mary in the centre, the incarnation of her son on the left and Old Testament prefigurations and prophecies on the right. One major exception to this scheme is the presence of large statues of St Modesta (a local martyr) and St Potentian on the north west corner of the porch, close to a small doorway where pilgrims visiting the crypt (where their relics were stored) would once have emerged blinking into the light.
Iconography of the various elements of the north transept portals
Left (east) Portal Central Portal Right (west) Portal
Jamb figures: Annunciation to Mary
Annunciation
The Annunciation, also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary or Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Virgin Mary, that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her...

 and the Visitation
Old Testament Patriarchs, John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

 and St Peter 
King Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

, the Queen of Sheba, various prophets
Lintel: Nativity
Nativity of Jesus
The Nativity of Jesus, or simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus in two of the Canonical gospels and in various apocryphal texts....

 and Annunciation to the Shepherds
Annunciation to the shepherds
The Annunciation to the shepherds is an episode in the Nativity of Jesus described in the Bible in Luke 2, in which angels tell a group of shepherds about the birth of Jesus...

 
Dormition
Dormition of the Theotokos
The Dormition of the Theotokos is a Great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which commemorates the "falling asleep" or death of the Theotokos , and her bodily resurrection before being taken up into heaven. It is celebrated on August 15 The Dormition...

 and Assumption
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

 of the Virgin
Judgement of Solomon
Tympanum
Tympanum (architecture)
In architecture, a tympanum is the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments. Most architectural styles include this element....

:
Adoration of the Magi and the Dream of the Magi
Biblical Magi
The Magi Greek: μάγοι, magoi), also referred to as the Wise Men, Kings, Astrologers, or Kings from the East, were a group of distinguished foreigners who were said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh...

 
Coronation of the Virgin
Coronation of the Virgin
The Coronation of the Virgin or Coronation of Mary is a subject in Christian art, especially popular in Italy in the 13th to 15th centuries, but continuing in popularity until the 18th century and beyond. Christ, sometimes accompanied by God the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove,...

 
Job on the Dunghill
Job (Biblical figure)
Job is the central character of the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible. Job is listed as a prophet of God in the Qur'an.- Book of Job :The Book of Job begins with an introduction to Job's character — he is described as a blessed man who lives righteously...

Archivolt
Archivolt
An archivolt is an ornamental molding or band following the curve on the underside of an arch. It is composed of bands of ornamental moldings surrounding an arched opening, corresponding to the architrave in the case of a rectangular opening...

s:
Personifications of the Virtues
Seven virtues
In the Catholic catechism, the seven catholic virtues refer to the combination of two lists of virtues, the 4 cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, restraint or temperance, and courage or fortitude, and the 3 theological virtues of faith, hope, and love or charity ; these were adopted by the...

 and Vices 
Tree of Jesse
Tree of Jesse
The Tree of Jesse is a depiction in art of the Ancestors of Christ, shown in a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David; the original use of the family tree as a schematic representation of a genealogy...

 / Prophet
Prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

s
Old Testament Narratives (Esther, Judith, Samson, Gideon and Tobit)


As well as the main sculptural areas around the portals themselves, the deep porches are filled with myriad other carvings depicting a range of subjects including local saints, Old Testament narratives, naturalistic foliage, fantastical beasts, Labours of the Months and personifications of the 'active and contemplative lives' (the vita activaand vita contemplativa). The personifications of the vita activa (directly overhead, just inside the inside of the left hand porch) are of particular interest for their meticulous depictions of the various stages in the preparation of flax
Flax
Flax is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent...

 - an important cash-crop in the area during the Middle Ages.

South transept façade

If the north transept portals are all about the time leading up to Christ's incarnation and the west façade is about the events of his life and Passion, then the iconography of the south transept portals addresses the time from Christ's death until his Second Coming. The central portal concentrates on the Last Judgement and the Apostles, the left portal on the lives of martyrs and the right on confessor saints (an arrangement also reflected in the windows of the apse).

Just like their northern counterparts, the south transept portals open into deep porches which greatly extend the space available for sculptural embellishment. A large number of subsidiary scenes depict conventional themes like the labours of the months and the signs of the zodiac, personifications of the virtues and vices and also further scenes from the lives of the martyrs (left porch) and confessors (right porch).
Iconography of the various elements of the south transept portals
Left (west) Portal Central Portal Right (east) Portal
Jamb figures: Martyr
Christian martyrs
A Christian martyr is one who is killed for following Christianity, through stoning, crucifixion, burning at the stake or other forms of torture and capital punishment. The word "martyr" comes from the Greek word μάρτυς, mártys, which means "witness."...

 saints
The Apostles  Confessor saints
Lintel: The martyrdom (by stoning) of St Stephen  The weighing of souls
Weighing of souls
The psychostasia, Greek 'weighing of souls', is a method of divine determination of fate, which persists from the Iliad through to christian theology....

 and separation of the blessed and the damned
Scenes from the lives of St Nicholas of Bari and St Martin
Martin of Tours
Martin of Tours was a Bishop of Tours whose shrine became a famous stopping-point for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela. Around his name much legendary material accrued, and he has become one of the most familiar and recognizable Christian saints...

 of Tours
Tympanum
Tympanum (architecture)
In architecture, a tympanum is the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments. Most architectural styles include this element....

:
Stephen's beatific vision of Christ Christ showing his wounds with the Virgin and St John and angels bearing the Arma Christi
Arma Christi
Arma Christi , or the Instruments of the Passion, are the objects associated with Jesus' Passion in Christian symbolism and art....

Further scenes from the lives of St Nicholas and St Martin
Archivolt
Archivolt
An archivolt is an ornamental molding or band following the curve on the underside of an arch. It is composed of bands of ornamental moldings surrounding an arched opening, corresponding to the architrave in the case of a rectangular opening...

s:
Assorted martyr saints Choirs of angels and the dead rising from their tombs / Prophet
Prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

s
Life of St Giles in lower register, other Confessors in the remaining voussoir
Voussoir
A voussoir is a wedge-shaped element, typically a stone, used in building an arch or vault.Although each unit in an arch or vault is a voussoir, two units are of distinct functional importance: the keystone and the springer. The keystone is the center stone or masonry unit at the apex of an arch. A...

s

Cathedral school

In the Middle Ages the cathedral also functioned as an important cathedral school
Cathedral school
Cathedral schools began in the Early Middle Ages as centers of advanced education, some of them ultimately evolving into medieval universities. Throughout the Middle Ages and beyond, they were complemented by the monastic schools...

. In the early 11th century Bishop Fulbert
Fulbert of Chartres
Fulbert of Chartres –10 April 1028) was the bishop of the Cathedral of Chartres from 1006 till 1028. He was a teacher at the Cathedral school there, he was responsible for the advancement of the celebration of the Feast day of “Nativity of the Virgin”, and he was responsible for one of the...

 established Chartres as one of the leading schools in Europe. Although the role of Fulbert himself as a scholar and teacher has been questioned, perhaps his greatest talent was as an administrator, who established the conditions in which the school could flourish, as well as laying the foundations for the rebuilding of the cathedral after the fire of 1020. Great scholars were attracted to the cathedral school, including Thierry of Chartres
Thierry of Chartres
Thierry of Chartres or Theodoric the Breton was a twelfth-century philosopher working at Chartres and Paris, France....

, William of Conches
William of Conches
William of Conches was a French scholastic philosopher who sought to expand the bounds of Christian humanism by studying secular works of the classics and fostering empirical science. He was a prominent member of the School of Chartres...

 and the Englishman John of Salisbury
John of Salisbury
John of Salisbury , who described himself as Johannes Parvus , was an English author, educationalist, diplomat and bishop of Chartres, and was born at Salisbury.-Early life and education:...

. These men were at the forefront of the intense intellectual rethinking that culminated in what is now known as the twelfth-century renaissance
Renaissance of the 12th century
The Renaissance of the 12th century was a period of many changes at the outset of the High Middle Ages. It included social, political and economic transformations, and an intellectual revitalization of Western Europe with strong philosophical and scientific roots...

, pioneering the Scholastic
Scholasticism
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

 philosophy that came to dominate medieval thinking throughout Europe.

By the early 12th century the status of the School of Chartres was on the wane. It was gradually eclipsed by the newly emerging University of Paris
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

, particularly at the School of the Abbey of St Victoire (the 'Victorines'). By the middle of the century the importance of Chartres Cathedral had begun to shift away from education and towards pilgrimage, a changing emphasis reflected in the subsequent architectural developments.

Popular culture

Orson Welles
Orson Welles
George Orson Welles , best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio...

 famously used Chartres as a visual backdrop and inspiration for a montage sequence in his film F For Fake
F for Fake
F for Fake is the last major film completed by Orson Welles, who directed, co-wrote, and starred in the film. Initially released in 1974, it focuses on Elmyr de Hory's recounting of his career as a professional art forger; de Hory's story serves as the backdrop for a fast-paced, meandering...

. Welles’ semi-autobiographical narration spoke to the power of art in culture and how the work itself may be more important than the identity of its creators. Feeling that the beauty of Chartres and its unknown artisans and architects epitomized this sentiment, Welles, standing outside the cathedral and looking at it, eulogizes:

Now this has been standing here for centuries. The premier work of man perhaps in the whole western world and it’s without a signature: Chartres.

A celebration to God’s glory and to the dignity of man. All that’s left most artists seem to feel these days, is man. Naked, poor, forked, radish. There aren’t any celebrations. Ours, the scientists keep telling us, is a universe, which is disposable. You know it might be just this one anonymous glory of all things, this rich stone forest, this epic chant, this gaiety, this grand choiring shout of affirmation, which we choose when all our cities are dust, to stand intact, to mark where we have been, to testify to what we had it in us, to accomplish.

Our works in stone, in paint, in print are spared, some of them for a few decades, or a millennium or two, but everything must finally fall in war or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash. The triumphs and the frauds, the treasures and the fakes. A fact of life. We’re going to die. “Be of good heart,” cry the dead artists out of the living past. Our songs will all be silenced – but what of it? Go on singing. Maybe a man’s name doesn’t matter all that much.

(Church bells peal…)


Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

 references his spiritual experience in The Power of Myth:

I'm back in the Middle Ages. I'm back in the world that I was brought up in as a child, the Roman Catholic spiritual-image world, and it is magnificent ... That cathedral talks to me about the spiritual information of the world. It's a place for meditation, just walking around, just sitting, just looking at those beautiful things.


In the film Two for the Road, Mark Wallace (played by Albert Finney
Albert Finney
Albert Finney is an English actor. He achieved prominence in films in the early 1960s, and has maintained a successful career in theatre, film and television....

) says to his wife, Jo (Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn was a British actress and humanitarian. Although modest about her acting ability, Hepburn remains one of the world's most famous actresses of all time, remembered as a film and fashion icon of the twentieth century...

):

Nobody knows the names of the men who made it. To make something as exquisite as this without wanting to smash your stupid name all over it. All you hear about nowadays is people making names, not things.


Joris-Karl Huysmans includes detailed interpretation of the symbolism underlying the art of Chartres Cathedral in his 1898 semi-autobiographical novel La Cathédrale.

Chartres was the primary basis for the fictional Cathedral in David Macaulay
David Macaulay
David Macaulay is an author and illustrator. Now a resident of Norwich, Vermont, United States, he is an alumnus and faculty member at the Rhode Island School of Design.- Biography :...

's Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction and the animated special based on this book.

Chartres was a major character in the religious thriller Gospel Truths by J. G. Sandom
J. G. Sandom
J. G. Sandom, known in the advertising industry as the Father of Interactive Advertising co-founded the nation's first digital advertising agency, Einstein and Sandom Interactive , in 1984, and is the author of nine works of fiction, including The God Machine, Gospel Truths, The Hunting Club, The...

. The book used the Cathedral's architecture and history as clues in the search for a lost Gospel.

The cathedral is featured in the television travel series The Naked Pilgrim
The Naked Pilgrim
The Naked Pilgrim is documentary series produced by British broadcaster Five and presented by art critic Brian Sewell. First broadcast in 2003, the series follows Sewell on the Catholic pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela....

; presenter Brian Sewell
Brian Sewell
Brian Sewell is an English art critic and media personality. He writes for the London Evening Standard and is noted for artistic conservatism and his acerbic view of the Turner Prize and conceptual art...

 explores the cathedral and discusses its famous relic - the nativity cloak said to have been worn by the Virgin Mary.

Present

Restoration of the west portal is underway and, according to a local billboard, will continue until summer 2011.

Chartres Light Celebration

One of the attractions at the Chartres Cathedral is the Chartres Light Celebration, when not only is the cathedral lit, but so are many buildings throughout the town. It is to celebrate the success of light-making in the town.

See also

  • Roman Catholic Marian churches
    Roman Catholic Marian churches
    Throughout history, Roman Catholics have built churches to venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today, a large number of Roman Catholic churches dedicated to the Blessed Virgin exist on all continents...

  • France in the Middle Ages
    France in the Middle Ages
    France in the Middle Ages covers an area roughly corresponding to modern day France, from the death of Louis the Pious in 840 to the middle of the 15th century...

  • Gothic Architecture
    Gothic architecture
    Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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