Chartres: winter break edition

Chartres cathedral – one of the greatest medieval churches to survive into the modern era.


The large Gothic cathedral, about an hour outside of Paris, once held one of the greatest sites of learning during the Middle Ages. The school here was second only to Paris, and so was the associated library.

Interior of Chartres Cathedral

During the war, the cathedral survived destruction due to sympathetic military personnel. Wikipedia relates:

“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.[21]

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 The order to destroy the cathedral was withdrawn, and the Allies later liberated the area.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 16 August 1944, in the town of Leves, near Chartres.[21][22]


While the army avoided the destruction of the church, the manuscripts were not so lucky. The heavy bombing of the city saw the destruction of the once incomparable manuscript collection. These valuable documents suffered fire damage at the hands of the bombing followed shortly by water damage in an effort to put out the resulting fire. Now, however, the Lazarus Project  will fly to Chartres later today to begin the digital imaging of the surviving fragments. Through the emerging technology of multi-spectral imaging, we will be able to recover documentary evidence not seen since the war.

Famous Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral

Excited to arrive and begin working on these documents!


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