Chartres is most known for it’s gothic cathedral that was built around the same time as the Notre Dame de Paris. The city is located in lower Normandy and evidence of that architecture is found everywhere.
There are plenty of open spaces in the town
and there are just as many hills and winding alleys.
Just above is an example of the Normandy architecture with the wooden beams and the white limestone plaster at the end of this little winding passageway.
There are also tributes to the Resistance to be found everywhere in the town –
In the year 200 BC, Chartres – pronounced shar-tr – was the capital of the gallic tribes. It was named “Carnutes” at the time, and this is the basis for its modern name. It was also the city where the druids – the celtic priests – would meet. As such, Chartres was a religious, political and military capital.
In the 3d century AD Chartres was evangelised by St Altin and St Eoldad, and by the 4th century it held the largest bishop’s palace in the area. The Normandy invasion led by Hastings in 858 culminated in the destruction of the city and its Saint-Père Abbey, which was not reconstructed until the 13th century.
Mind you, this magnificent church is not the famous cathedral of Chartres, which I’ll get to in a minute.
But you can see how imposing it is.
How much work it needs inside (that net below is to catch any stones that fall from the ceiling).
This church is now called l’Eglise de Saint-Pierre, and is most notably used for organ festivals.
It has seen better days
but one cannot deny its charm.
Oh excuse me. How remiss of me to talk so much about a church that is not even the church that everyone goes to Chartres to see! It just seems like such a waste. Any other city, and people would put time into money into restoring this beauty. As it stands, it is sorely neglected. And we came upon another more modest church that looked even older than this one. Chartres cannot escape its early religious influence.
But let me get on with it and present you with the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres.
Above is the front view and below is the back.
After the city was sacked in 858, the citizens of Chartres eventually repelled the Vikings (also known as the Norsemen, which gave Normandy its name). Some of the counts and dukes in neighbouring villages built up reinforcements, which protected Chartres and provided it with some years of peace.
It was Bishop Fulbert who constructed the cathedral in honour of the Virgin Mary in the year 1000 AD. (Notre Dame means “Our Lady” and is not exclusive to the Notre Dame in Paris).
A century later, raging fires destroyed the entire city made of wood, and the St Peter’s church above; but they only touched the façade of this cathedral.
In the 13th century, Chartres had the dubious distinction of launching the second Christian Crusade.
And in 1591 Henry IV was crowned King in the Cathedral of Chartres.
It was the only time a coronation occurred outside of the city of Reims.
During the French Revolution, the cathedral was nearly destroyed (along with many other religious artefacts, clergy, and anything or anyone carrying the power of the Monarchy).
It was saved by Sergent-Marceau and was later christened “The Temple of Reason.”
In 1849, Chartres was one of the first villages to be linked to Paris by railway, and this access transformed its economic and social standing.
It was taken over in 1940 by the Germans during WWII. When the Allies came to liberate the city in 1944, Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. questioned the order to destroy the cathedral on the assumption that it was occupied. He led a recognisance mission with one other soldier and discovered that the cathedral was unoccupied. Those in charge withdrew the order to bomb the cathedral, and in that way they were able to save it. The city of Chartres was liberated August 18, 1944.
The cathedral is currently under renovation. This (below) is what the stone is supposed to look like.
And this (though it’s blurry) is the contrast between the old and the restored/cleaned.
Its beauty is as much in the details as it is in the grandeur.
Chartres has the most incredible blue stained glass windows.
And may they not break for any reason because the secret died with the artist who created them. No one can figure out how to get such a colour blue.
With its shops and restaurants and pretty sights, Chartres is fun to visit for the whole family.
And wherever you wander in the town
you cannot lose sight of the magnificent cathedral that defines it.The Notre-Dame de Chartres