The Cathedral of Chartres is a true prototype of the Gothic cathedral due to its longitudinal body comprising of the nave and the two aisles. The Cathedral of Chartres also comprises of an elevation of three levels which include the arcade, the triforium, and the clerestory. These levels are crossed by a short transept and end in a deep presbytery with chapels radiating from it. The Cathedral of Chartres is approximately 130 meters in length with a nave of about 16.5 meters wide. The building assumes a cruciform design plan exhibited by most of the French Gothic Basilicas. The design also includes a two-bay vestibule found to the western end which leads directly into the seven-bay nave towards the three-bay transepts (Von Simson 6). The transept leads to a richly decorated atrium with a series of fine lancet windows. The lancet windows connect to rose windows depicting an extraordinary luminous surface which were later turned into the transept of St. Paris and Danis. The nave extends towards the east into a semicircular apse. Both the nave and the transepts are flanked by single aisles broadening into an ambulatory for the choir and apse.
The Cathedral of Chartres also has a rectangular bay within the nave which are covered by quadripartite ribbed cross vaults. These quadripartite ribbed cross vaults beautifully rest on alternating cylindrical and polygonal elements forming a continuous rhythm that exalts the effect the revolutionary pilier canton that was used. The exterior design of the building depicts buttresses and innovation of the designs making the nave to be higher than the aisles thus exhibiting a sense of monumentality and grandeur.
The Cathedral of Chartres is an example of the implementation of the Gothic architecture by the Knights Templar. The results of these implementations are long-lasting and beautiful spiritual monuments around the world. The Cathedral of Chartres which is also known as the Notre-Dame-de-Chartres is a magnificent, spectacular architectural marvel which is considered to the one of the most sacred. The place is considered to be rich in esoteric secrets and historical significance. According to Frankl (2000), the charters have the highest telluric earth currents (245). The spiritual energies around the Chartres were and are so special, and they led to the recognition of the divine atmosphere in the place. The location of the Chartres is also respected and deeply honoured making it the only cathedral without a bishop, king, canon, or cardinal being interred within its environs. The place in which the Chartres was built was a pagan site which was dedicated to the Mother Goddess. The place had a sacred dolmen and was regarded as the womb of the earth.
The Cathedral of Chartres is built in the town of Chartres which has a rich history of religious importance. According to Williams (1987), the town was a site for Druid ceremonies that were carried out around a well found in the cathedral crypt (124). In the same spot, there was a basilica by the early Christians and later a Gallo-Roman temple. In 1594, Chartres was also used as a coronation site of Henry IV.
The Cathedral of Chartres acquired a strong association with the cult of the Virgin due to its dedication to the Notre-Dame (Our Lady). It was alleged that Chartres was dedicated to the virgin who was to give birth in Druidical times. The Druid had a statue to prove their belief. The crypt of the cathedral had other components of the legend. The crypt was sanctified with the remains of the martyrs who were thrown into it (Frankl 267). The crypt also comprises of a tunic of the Virgin. The story of the Virgin had been elaborated over the centuries with its flourish in the Baroque Period and in the middle ages where it was shared with the image of the Cathedral as a key component.
The Cathedral of Chartres was built with an extensive amount of sculpture ranging from the large columns to miniatures statues. These sculptures were purposefully used to preach and instruct with their primary depiction on the biblical scenes of the Old and New Testaments. The Cathedral of Chartres is made of 176 stained-glass windows which makes it popular thus attracting tourists across the globe. The original intention of the glasses and the sculptures used in the Cathedral of Chartres was educational (Von Simson 5). Nonetheless, these have turned out to be the attractive primary features of this building. The building comprises of five windows in a semicircular arrangement relating to the Virgin Mary. There is also a rose window in the transept to the north with the figures of the old-testament and the transept to the south has figures of the New Testament and another rose window which depicts the Apocalypse.
The Cathedral of Chartres was built as a result of the fires that razed down the previous church in the year 1194. The current structure was consecrated in 1260. The building brought life to the city of Chartres (Von Simson 76). Till date, the city owes its popularity and prosperity to its bishop and chapter who worked hard to ensure the annual trade fairs were conducted on the feasts of the Virgin Mary. The feasts of the Virgin Mary were vital since the cathedral was dedicated to her annunciation, nativity, assumption, and purification. The choice of the Cathedral of Chartres for the dedication was influenced by the claim that it was in possession of the robe worn by Mary on the day Christ was born (Von Simson 181). The Chartres is also in possession of the piece of oriental silk presented to it by the Emperor Charles the Bald in 876.
The Cathedral of Chartres has a rich history from the 13th Century. The stained-glass windows used in the exterior decoration of the Chartres are dated back to the century when there was an expansion in the towns as well as cities due to the increased middle-class activities (Williams 154). During this time, activities such as farming and craft technologies were developing and becoming more sophisticated. The developments led to an increase in wealth at a time when there was peace across the country resulting in the flourishing of art and pleasure among the people (Williams 183). Nonetheless, the Capetian dynasty was primarily concerned with strengthening the power of the monarchy. Thus, they used this period to propagate the influence and the identity of Christianity. The lords used this period to build the Cathedral of Chartres. As a result, far-reaching reforms were realized which were reflected in the windows of the Cathedral of Chartres in their iconography.
Frankl, Paul, and Paul Crossley. Gothic architecture. Yale University Press, 2000.
Von Simson, Otto. The gothic cathedral. Bollingen Foundation, 1965.
Williams, Jane Welch. The windows of the trades at Chartres Cathedral. University of California, Los Angeles, 1987.
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