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Path: Photos > Photos > Cathedral Cities > Chartres
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If you visit the website of Chartres' tourist office you might wonder: it is all about the cathedral, just as if there was nothing else to see in this small provincial town. Well, we think that Chartres has a bit more to offer even if it cannot compete with big cities such as Le Mans or Rouen. Head to the tourist office for a map cum itinerary and start exploring: there are a few timber framed houses in the streets around the cathedral, a pleasant pedestrianised commercial zone, the beautiful Saint-Peter church and of course the banks of the river Eure dotted with old water mills and washing houses (with views on the cathedral as you approach). Enough to keep you busy for a few hours.

But obviously when people come to Chartres it is to see the cathedral. It was built and decorated between 1134 and 1260 and the main body was completed in less than 26 years which explains the architectural unity of the building. The cathedral is justly famous for its stained glass windows from the 12th and 13th centuries and statuary.

The cathedral has been much restored in the past years. Its exterior is nice and clean and the big surprise comes when one steps into the church and enters the nave: its walls are in a totally unexpected white colour which we found at first a bit unsettling, the more so because the side aisles have not been restored yet and are in stark contrast to the rest. There is a labyrinth in the nave but unfortunately it was hidden under chairs as we were visiting; we learnt later that it is only made accessible every Friday between Lent and All Saints' Day. Finally the cathedral is home to a shining white choir screen from the 16th century, which has also been beautifully restored and is quite impressive.

View of the west front with the three doorways of the royal portal and the two bell towers. The cathedral as we see it today was built at the beginning of the 12th century above the remains of an earlier Romanesque cathedral which had been destroyed by fire in 1194. The only elements having survived this blaze were the two towers, the west front and the crypt, all the rest had to be rebuilt. The south bell tower is 103 m high with a slender plain spire and was built between 1142 and 1170. The north bell tower is 115 m high with an ornate spire and was completed in 1516. The cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a piece of her veil is kept here as a relic which has made Chartres an important pilgrimage destination still very active today.
The royal portal was built between 1145 and 1170 and survived the fire of 1194. The themes depicted on its three doorways are from left to right: Ascension, Apocalypse and Incarnation. Note the beautiful elongated statues framing the doors, they are a representation of biblical kings and queens. Close-up of the central doorway of the royal portal. Its tympanum pictures Christ in Majesty surrounded by an ox, an eagle, a winged lion and an angel, the symbols of the four evangelists Luke, John, Mark and Matthew. Below is a frieze representing the twelve apostles. Kings and queens of the Old Testament framing the doorways of the royal portal. Close-up of one of the statues framing the central doorway of the royal portal, an attractive biblical queen pictured here with her long braid. Angel with a sundial on the south-east corner of the cathedral. View of the south front with the south bell tower and the three doorways of the portal of the south transept. The three doorways of the south portal. The themes depicted are from left to right: Martyrs, the Last Judgement, Confessors (a confessor is a person who avows religious faith in the face of opposition but does not suffer martyrdom). The central doorway of the south portal depicting the Last Judgement. The doors are framed by jamb figures of the apostles. Close-up of the Last Judgement. Below Christ, the righteous go to Paradise on the left, the others to Hell on the right. Sculptures on one of the pillars framing the right doorway of the south portal. As already mentioned, this doorway is dedicated to the confessors. On the top is Saint Lubin, bishop of Chartres in the middle of the 6th century: called to administer the last sacrament to a very sick young priest, he applies the sacred oils while praying for his recovery... miracle: the young man healed and became eventually his successor. Below is Saint Benoit holding the book with all rules of the Benedictine order he created. Jamb figures of the apostles framing the doors of the central doorway of the south portal. From left to right: Saint James the Less, Saint Bartholomew and Saint Matthew. Base of one of the jamb figures framing the central doorway of the south portal. The cathedral seen from the north-east with the chevet and a good overview of the flying buttresses. Central doorway of the portal of the north transept. The tympanum depicts the coronation of the Virgin Mary. New Testament figures framing the right side of the central doorway of the north portal. From left to right: the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Simeon, John the Baptist and finally Peter with his key. Base of the jamb figure of Isaiah. Characters of the Old Testament framing the right doorway of the north portal. From left to right: <a target="_blank"  href="https://biography.yourdictionary.com/jesus-ben-sira">the Jewish sage and author Jesus ben Sira</a>, a Sibyl, <a target="_blank"  href="https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-biblical-figure">Joseph the Patriarch</a>. The bright white nave after restoration. We were at first taken aback at this brightness and clarity which is in stark contrast to the interior of cathedrals as we otherwise know them: dark and a bit mysterious. View of the choir. The statue on the main altar depicts the Virgin as she rises to the skies. Side view of the choir with the ambulatory behind. The statue of Notre Dame du Pilier. This statue has also been restored and used to be black from the soot from candles and incense. It is now white as shown on the picture, a change which has engendered some controversy <a target="_blank"  href="https://vialucispress.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/restoration-in-miniature-notre-dame-du-pilier-dennis-aubrey/">as told in this article</a>. The rose window of the south transept dating 1221-1230. It is dedicated to the life of Christ. The lancets below the rose are depicting from left to right: Luke, Matthew, Mary, John and Mark. The rose window of the west front dating circa 1215. The lancets below the rose are: the passion of Christ, childhood and life of Jesus, the tree of Jesse. Windows in the chapel of the confessors in the choir. From left to right: the lives of Saint Nicholas, Saint Marguerite and Saint Catherine, Saint Thomas Beckett. Detail of the famous window of Notre Dame de la Belle Verrière dating from around 1180. 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. She is surrounded by angels on the right and left hand-side. The angels below with the red background are holding columns supporting the throne where the Virgin is seated. Detail of the lower part of the window of Notre Dame de la Belle Verrière. The upper tier shows scenes of the wedding at Cana. From left to right: 1) Jesus and his disciples on their way to the wedding 2) the wedding banquet: on the right, one servant tells his master that there is no wine left 3) Mary tells Jesus that they have no wine left prompting him to do something, but Jesus responds that his time has not come yet. The lower tier shows the temptations of Christ. From left to right: 1) the second temptation where Satan challenges Jesus to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem and to order angels to catch and save him 2) Satan takes Jesus to a high mountain and offers him dominion over all earthly kingdoms and their riches. Windows of the chapel of the martyrs in the choir. From left to right: the lives of Saint Chéron, Saint Etienne, Saint Pantaléon. The impressive choir screen depicts scenes of the life of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. The bigger part was completed in the 16th century, although the last parts were finished in the 18th century. The depicted scenes here, all dating from the 16th century, are from left to right: 1) Joachim meets Anna 2) birth of Mary 3) presentation of Mary in the temple 4) betrothal of Mary and Joseph 5) the annunciation 6) the visitation. Detail of a scene of the choir screen: the baptism of Jesus (dating circa 1550). The House of the Salmon is now home to Chartres' tourist office. It has been built in the second half of the 15th century and got its name from a salmon carved on its facade. Close-up of the carved salmon on the eponymous house. The hall of the vegetable market built in 1898. A market is still held here every Saturday. Timber framed houses in the rue Porte Guillaume.

While researching the cathedral, I came across this website, unfortunately only in French but very informative. It is at the beginning not too obvious to navigate (for example in the “menu Vitraux”, do not click on a picture to maximise it but on its text/title).

Go back to Bourges or go on to Le Mans or go up to Cathedral Cities

$updated from: Cathedral Cities.htxt Mon 03 May 2021 16:08:34 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$