Chartres Cathedral, France

Chartres Cathedral, France

I was surprised at how much I liked the Chartres Cathedral.  It had been Kevin’s idea to visit it all along.  We were flying into Paris, and from then on had a pretty open week until we had to be in Poitiers.  He had picked Chartres, telling me that he’d wanted to see it since he was a teenager.  He had always been impressed with its legendary buttresses, and stained glass extraordinaire.

Candles for Mary, Chartres Cathedral, France

exterior of Cathedral

 

beautiful stained glass

statues outside Chartres Cathedral

Cross inside Chartres

I thought I might enjoy the architecture, the oldness of the building.  It seems like a four hundred year old building is new in France.  And Chartres Cathedral, having burned down several times, was rebuilt to its current form between 1193 and 1250.   It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

exterior of the cathedral

clock on the exterior of the cathedral

We arrived at the sleepy town of Chartres late evening, after following the Cathedral on the horizon from miles (oops, pardon me, kilometers) away.   We enjoyed circling the building, and a delicious meal at one of several nearby restaurants, but we did not slip inside the Cathedral for an awe-inspiring look until morning.

town of Chartres, France

With the sun rising on the horizon, we meandered through several thin stone alleys.  We eventually wound up in the backyard of the Cathredral, where we explored the neatly trimmed labyrinth in the backyard.

alleyway in Chartres

labyrinth at Chartres, France

The day was overcast and as we entered the Cathedral it was lit only by candles, but being shrouded in darkness just added to the ambiance.

Mary’s altar Chartres

Offering Candles in Chartes

Altar for Mary, Chartres

I walked under light streaming through massive stained glass windows, arched ceilings and white sculptures, by ancient paintings and flickering candles, just trying to take in the enormousness of it all.  One side of the building has been cleaned, the rest is a work in process, but when I looked up at those pure white arches, I caught my breath in surprise.  I’d heard legends of the temples on the other side, majestic buildings holding libraries with infinite volumes of knowledge, and portals to other worlds.  Surely if there’s a heaven-like place when we die, this is what its temples would look like.

chandeliers and white arches

one of many altars in the cathedral, this one a clean white

Chartres Mary’s Veil

The Cathedral is dedicated to Mary and it certainly has that nurturing motherly presence, as if its stone walls are a womb holding you safely away from the pressures and cares of the world.  Encased in glass is a tunic that the Cathedral’s history says, belonged to the Blessed Mother, and has been carbon dated back to her time.  It miraculously survived the last fire, inspiring the Cathedral’s great rebuild, and bringing tourists from all over the world.

Mary’s Veil, Chartres Cathedral

Painting in Chartres Cathedra

Exploring Chartres on my own, meditating under the giant arches with the total lack of any religious sermon, allowed me to just relax and enjoy the building; all that was left is the beauty and my imagination.  But my pictures seem to tell more then my words could, so I’ll just post a whole lot of them here.  Click on them for full size, and you can really see!

giant doors, tall ceilings

interesting pulpit for a church

offering candles

One of many hallways in Chartres

Candles around Mary, Chartres Cathedral, France

another altar

painting in the altar space


stained glass

statues in the cathedral

Chartes Cathedral lit up at night

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