Chartres is famous for its medieval school – and the medieval cathedral it was associated with.
The church is gorgeous – inside and out.
A church has stood on this site since the Roman Empire, but the first church which we have detailed records for dates from the 11th century. At this time a new cathedral was built, and a manuscript miniature survives depicting this church.
The present Gothic style church dates from the thirteenth century, and is currently undergoing a restoration project to return it to to the original design.
The contrast between the untouched stone and the restored surfaces creates a dramatic effect. The thirteenth century design makes the cathedral multi-colored rather than the dark monochromatic pre-restoration stone.
The restoration has caused one slight problem – you can’t see the famous labyrinth in the middle of the cathedral floor.
The medieval garden I helped design and build as an undergrad had a model of this labyrinth.
During the war, many medieval manuscripts were harmed – but the church was left untouched. The original medieval stained glass survives, and the strong blue in Chartres glass remains an unique phenomenon.
The money to create such elaborate decorations largely came from medieval pilgrimages. The church has long been associated with the cult of the Virgin Mary. Historically, a wooden statue of the Virgin welcomed pilgrims. The statue is no longer a simple wooden monument.
Decoration throughout the church
Unlike many other medieval cathedrals, buildings in the town still come up right next to the church. In many towns, the Victorians destroyed the area nearby to create an open area in front of the cathedral. Chartres is not one of those times.
Chartres is amazing.