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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.