03. Early Europe & Colonial Americas, Art & Humanities, Christianity, Religion

Student Series! Chartres Cathedral

Student Series! Chartres Cathedral

This piece is all about the AP Art History cathedral of Chartres but funny enough it written by a Humanities student who never took Art History. I may or may not have gently guided my student in this direction. 🙂


Chartres Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, is a Gothic cathedral located in Chartres, France, about 80 kilometers southwest of Paris. This is also a Gothic church with pointed arches, naves, and most significantly, flying buttresses. The cathedral is also significant for its many stained-glass windows and sculptures. Because most of its 12th-and 13th-century stained glass and sculpture survived the fire. Chartres Cathedral is one of the most completely surviving medieval churches in history. Chartres cathedral was also one of the first sites to be included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.

Read more: Cologne: The city of the Rhine, the Cathedral, & the Three Kings


Chartres’ Architecture & Design

The oldest parts of the cathedral are its crypt and the west portal, also called the Royal Portal. Both are remnants of a Romanesque church that was mostly destroyed by the fire in 1194. The present cathedral was constructed on the foundations of that earlier church and consecrated in 1260.

In many ways, Chartres cathedral’s design resembles those of contemporary Gothic churches, especially Laon Cathedral, but it also displays significant innovations with its tall arches, narrow triforium, and huge clerestory. The flying buttresses enabled the builders to eliminate the tribune above the aisle.

Read more: Student Series! Stained Glass and Gargoyles


Stained Glass Windows

By the beginning of the 13th century, the influence of the Gothic style on stained glass windows was increasing. The stained-glass windows transmit light through the glass rather than reflect it, so it transforms the natural life into a beautiful kaleidoscope. Chartres nave is so dark because of the colored glass in the windows instead of clear glass. This would block some of the sun from entering the church giving the dark feel inside the church.

On September 5, 1194, a fire broke out in the church of Chartres. However, 152 out of the original 176 stained glass windows survived this fire. The best Chartres window that survived the fire was called the Notre Dame de la Belle Verriere, also called Our Lady of the Beautiful Window. The central section with a red background depicts the Virgin Mary enthroned with baby Jesus in her lap. This glass window is over 12 feet high and full of color and intricate details.

Read more: Pilgrimage in Art History

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