Chartres Cathedral located in the in the medieval town of Chartres, 80 kilometres (50 mi) southwest of Paris, France , is a Latin Rite Catholic cathedral believed to be one of the finest examples of the French High Gothic style. The current cathedral was mostly constructed between 1193 and 1250 and has been a major pilgrimage destination since the Middle Ages.
Not only is Chartres Cathedral one of the greatest achievements in the history of architecture, it is almost perfectly preserved in its original design and details. 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 buttresses, while the west end is dominated by two contrasting spires . Also notable are the three great facades, each adorned with hundreds of sculpted figures illustrating key theological themes.
According to tradition, Chartres Cathedral has housed the tunic of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sancta Camisa, since 876. The relic have been given to the cathedral by Charlemagne, who received it during a trip to Jerusalem. Because of this relic, Chartres has been a very important Marian pilgrimage center and the faithful still come from the world over to honor it.
After the first cathedral burnt down in 1020, a glorious new Romanesque basilica with a massive crypt was built under the direction of Bishop Fulbert and later Geoffroy de Leves. Partly built starting in 1145, and then reconstructed over a 26-year period after the fire of 1194, Chartres Cathedral marks the high point of French Gothic art. In 1260, the cathedral was finally dedicated in the presence of King Louis IX and his family.
Chartres Cathedral was never destroyed or damaged during the French Revolution and the numerous restorations never have altered its glorious beauty. The cathedral was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.
Since at least the 12th century the cathedral has been an important destination for tourists attracting large numbers of Christian pilgrims, many of whom come to venerate its famous relic, the Sancta Camisa. Here are the most important things to see when visiting the cathedral:
- The Exterior
- The North Portal, recently cleaned of industrial grime, illustrates the Old Testament and the Virgin Mary as precursors and preparations for Christ.
- The South Portal, still waiting its turn to be cleaned, was carved between 1224 and 1250 on the theme of the New Testament, centered on the Last Judgment.
- The West Portal, known as the Royal Portal (Porte Royale), was carved by 1150.
- Interior is even more elegant and beautiful than the exterior. The spacious nave is the widest in France and stands 121 feet (36m) high. There is an unbroken view from the western end right along to the magnificentapse in the east, 427-foot (128m) away.
- The stone floor still bears its ancient floor labyrinth (1205), used for walking contemplation by monks and still used for meditation by pilgrims. There is just one path through the labyrinth and it is 964 feet long. Its simbolizing the journey with the hope of becoming closer to God.
- The beautiful stained glass windows that glows like jewels. Dating from the early 13th century, the glass largely escaped harm during the religious wars of the 16th century.
Chartres Cathedral facts
- Length – 130 metres (430 ft)
- Widt -: 32 metres (105 ft) / 46 metres (151 ft)
- Nave – height 37 metres (121 ft); width 16.4 metres (54 ft)
- Ground area -10,875 square metres (117,060 sq ft)
- Height of south west tower – 105 metres (344 ft)
- Height of north west tower – 113 metres (371 ft)
- 176 stained-glass windows
- Choir enclosure – 200 statues in 41 scenes
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