Monday, October 29, 2012


I've always wanted to see the cathedral at Chartres.

Chartres is unusual for several reasons.  Many cathedrals of this scale where built over a much longer span of time.  Funding shortages, war, or plague caused halts in construction.  Architects died before the project was finished.  Construction flaws lead to design changes.   Chartres was built relatively quickly, between 1194-1250, so its design is consistent.  One of the spires was damaged by fire in the 16th century and was rebuilt.

Of all the medieval cathedrals in the world, Chartres retains the most original stained glass windows, escaping war and revolutionary vandalism over the centuries.  The windows were removed during World War II and stored throughout the countryside until the war ended.

During World War II, it was suspected that the Germans were using the cathedral as an observation post, and an order came to destroy it.  An American officer questioned the strategy and went behind enemy lines with one enlisted soldier to determine if the Germans were in fact occupying it.  He found the cathedral was not being used by the Germans, and it was spared.

Currently, a project is underway to clean and repaint the interior in its original 13th century color scheme.  It's a somewhat controversial project.  There is concern that creating a brighter interior will diminish the beauty of the windows, which glow against the aged, dingy walls.

We were able to see a few completed sections.  After seeing countless dark medieval cathedrals, I think the completed restoration will be magnificent.

The town of Chartres is charming and very pedestrian-friendly.  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll before boarding the train back to Paris.

Coming next...Versailles!

1 comment:

  1. Nice pictures and great post about Chartres! Thanks for sharing :)


Will blog for comments! Talk to me.