Chartres Cathedral and the French Gothic style

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Notre-Dame de la Belle Verrière (right side in shade)

Chartres Cathedral is a blend of styles – of severe and lofty elegance, elaborately decorated portals and glowing stained-glass windows

As one of Europe’s most important religious sites since the 4th century, Chartres with its magnificent cathedral continuous to draw pilgrims and visitors from all corners of the world. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres as it stands today, is almost perfectly preserved and one of the first constructions built in a distinct style largely of French origin – an ‘Opus Francigenum’ as it was called then – a Gothic masterpiece from the 12th century.

Together with the cathedrals in Reims and Amiens, Chartres Cathedral strongly influenced the building of cathedrals throughout Europe in the following centuries, among them the magnificent Cologne Cathedral in Germany, Westminster Abbey in England (London) and León Cathedral in Spain.

Chartres Cathedral is partially built on the ruins of a Romanesque style construction, clearly visible in the mismatch of the two spires. Following a devastating fire in Chartres in 1194, it was promptly decided by the townspeople and clergy that the cathedral should be reconstructed in a new style more spectacular than ever before, resulting in what is a high point in French Gothic art and architecture.

Over a relatively short span of only 25 years, the new cathedral in Chartres rose rapidly over the old remains, and by 1220 the original west (main) façade and towers were incorporated in the new building. On October 24, 1260, in the presence of King Louis IX, Chartres Cathedral was consecrated and dedicated to him and his family. Religious buildings in France from this time in history were typically dedicated to and sponsored by royalties and those loyal to the king.

Apostles (South porch, 13th Century)

World Heritage since 1979

Chartres Cathedral is inscribed on the World Heritage list for being a complete expression of one of the most unanimous aspects of medieval Christianity, generally speaking what is now commonly referred to as Gothic-style art and architecture. Chartres Cathedral has exerted considerable influence on the development of Gothic art in Europe, including stained-glass artworks. (UNESCO)

Chartres Cathedral

SOURCES & CREDITS
Sacred Destinations
UNESCO/ICOMOS (pdf)
All photos by Asgeir Pedersen, Spots France