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.
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).
$updated from: Cathedral Cities.htxt Sun 13 Dec 2020 16:00:13 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$