Chartres Travel Blog› entry 7 of 62 › view all entries
Our second day trip out of Paris was Cathedrale Notre Dame de Chartres--regarded by most to be the penultimate French Gothic cathedral. It is easy to understand the effect it must have had on the medieval eye-- even with modern buildings rivalling its height, Chartres dominates the landscape. Up close, it is even more impressive. Its mismatched spires are misleading-- this is actually one of the more cohesive cathedrals in Europe, built in 26 years, after a fire destroyed most of the earlier structure (the cathedral burned down no fewer than four times before that as well). The Romanesque west portal (the "front" face of the cathedral with the spires) survived the fire-- an event attributed to the Virgin Mary's veil that was stored there at the time.
The interior includes several famous features, foremost being a figure of the Madonna and Child which grace most Chartres souvenirs. I bought a floaty pen showing the cathedral in the backgound with the statue cruising back and forth in front. They are dressed lavishly according to the season- velvets and furs and silks and lace. It also has fabulous stained glass windows. The shade of blue prevalent in most of the windows is has yet to be reproduced by modern technology--the windows were removed and safe guarded throughout WWII because they could not be replaced. The floor beneath the transcept is a giant labyrinth, meant to be walked in prayer-- a symbolic/spiritual pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Outside Chartres is dripping with gothic decoration--the chapels behind the apse add a dense forest of flying butresses, stained glass, and open work. The portals at north south and west are covered with figural carvings. We ate a delicious picnic of local bread, cheese, and fruit on the grounds of the cathedral, then headed back to Paris.