Chartres Cathedral (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
Masterpiece of human creative genius (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
Considered to be the beacon of the region of La Beauce, the cathedral was inscribed under criteria (i), (ii) and (iv), which explains the considerable influence it had on the art of the Christian Middle Ages. It was an important marker in the history of medieval architecture.
A masterpiece of human creative genius, the basilica is one of the most complete and intact testimonies of the medieval art (criterion i). This unique building presents a complete architectural ensemble in its glazed, sculpted and painted decorations.
Height of the Nave (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
Although several additions were made during the Renaissance and the 13th century, these did not alter the cathedral’s appearance, and it has remained largely unchanged ever since.
Influence on the development of Gothic art (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
Criterion (ii): Chartres Cathedral has exercised considerable influence on the development of Gothic art in France and beyond.
The architects of the Cathedrals of Reims, Amiens and Beauvais have only enriched the fundamental design of Chartres, that was imitated in Cologne in Germany, Westminister in England and Leon in Spain.
Stained glass (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
In the domain of stained glass, the influence of the Chartres workshop ranged widely from Bourges, Sens, Le Mans, Tours, Poitiers, Rouen, Canterbury, through spreading or diffusion of works.
A basic building type (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
Criterion (iv): Chartres Cathedral is both a symbol and a basic building type. It is the most elucidating example one could choose to define the cultural, social and aesthetic reality of the Gothic cathedral.
Historical monument (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
Listed as a historic monument in 1862, the cathedral has written the history of the city through its pilgrimages and its devotion to the Virgin Mary. An early legend recalls the presence of a cave dedicated to the "Virgin before giving birth".
In the Notre-Dame de Sous Terre chapel in the current crypt, a Roman statue of the Virgin can be found. Following the donation of the Holy Tunic in 876, the cathedral became an important destination for the thousands of pilgrims who come every year to worship in the basilica.
The Holy Tunic (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The Holy Tunic, commonly called the Veil of the Virgin, was worn by the Virgin Mary during the Annunciation. It was offered to the Pope by Emperor Charles the Bald after his coronation, in order to increase the prestige of the cathedral.
During the Revolution, the sacred relic was cut into pieces and sold. A new display was created in 2020 to protect the reliquary and the veil, and to present them to the public.
The “royal portal” (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The Royal Portal was an early example of the use of statue-columns, a feature which then became popular throughout the north of France. The sculpted scenes above the three doorways depict Christ in the centre, the Ascension on the left and the Incarnation on the right.
The North portal (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The north portal, which was built between 1210 and 1225 and is made up of three doorways, depicts the life of Christ through the Virgin Mary. On the left is the childhood of Christ, in the centre the coronation of the Virgin and on the right the Old Testament.
The South portal (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The south portal also features elaborate carvings. Probably created between 1205 and 1215, the south portal echoes the history of the Church, with a representation of the Martyrs on the left, the scene of the Last Judgment in the centre and the Confessors on the right.
Statues in Lutetian limestone (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The many details in the sculptures and decorative elements of these doorways show great finesse. Carved for the most part in Lutetian limestone, more than 1500 statues animate the nine sculpted portals of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres.
The clock pavilion (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The clock pavilion was built by the architect Jehan de Beauce in 1520. Its base pre-dates the construction of the dial. Richly decorated, a single hand still tells the time today. The top of the pavilion was once enhanced with colour.
The Angel on the Dial (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The angel holding the dial at the corner of the bell tower is a 1974 copy of the original which dated back to 1528. During the Renaissance, contemporaries took great interest in measuring instruments. The dial was installed to check the proper functioning of the clock.
Dimensions (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The monument is 130.2m long and 64m wide at the transept. The nave has an exceptional span of 16.4m, the widest among Gothic cathedrals. Though not the largest in France (surpassed in particular by Amiens), Chartres Cathedral is of a significant size, with an area of 5,800 m2.
The choir wall (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The impressive choir wall, which was commissioned in 1513 by Jehan de Beauce, was completed in 1727. This set of statuary is considered to be the liturgical choir of the cathedral and consists of 41 sculpted groups depicting the lives of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
A masterpiece of stone architecture and sculpture (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
This group is sculpted in stone: Vernon and Saint-Leu stone is used for the structure and Tonnerre stone and freestone for the sculptures. It was whitewashed to harmonize the different shades of the blocks.
With a length of 100m and a height of 6m, it is the richest, sculpted ornamental decoration in religious architecture from the beginning of the Renaissance in France.
The astronomical clock (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The cathedral’s astronomical, or astrolabic, clock is integrated into the enclosure of the choir tower. Dating back to 1528, it is made of stone, copper and wrought iron. It measures the height of the stars and thus makes it possible to read the time according their position.
The labyrinth (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The labyrinth has a diameter of 12.88m. The pathway, which measures 262m in length, consists of 272 white slabs of Bercheres stone. This decorative element dates back to the 12th century and was commissioned by the Notre-Dame de Chartres chapter.
This is one of only a few examples of labyrinths that exist in France. Others can be found in the cathedrals of Notre-Dame d'Amiens and Notre-Dame de Reims.
The vaults (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The height of the nave is 37.5m. Its ribbed vaults have a "barlong" plan. Four diagonal arches join at the keystone and the interior of a module is rectangular in shape.
The keystones (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
Upon restoration, the keystones, which are positioned on ribbed vaults, were revealed to be covered with heraldic decorations from the 13th-14th century. This one, located in the centre of the choir and adorned with golden fleur-de-lys, is attributed to King Louis IX of France.
Stained glass windows (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The cathedral has a unique collection of stained glass windows dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. 173 windows adorn the façade, covering an area of 2,600 m2. It is one of the most imposing collections of stained glass windows from the second Middle Ages.
Blue of Chartres (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The colour blue which dominates the stained glass windows of the cathedral gave rise to the well-known shade, Chartres Blue.
This shade is the result of a sodium flux in which cobalt and antimony, copper and iron have been mixed. The composition of the glass was altered in the 13th century and beech ash replaced the cobalt, which made the blue darker.
A new frame made of a metal structure (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
The roof and its wooden frame, known as a “forest”, were destroyed by fire in 1836. A new frame, which was made of a metal structure with a copper cover, replaced the missing elements.
Archangel Saint Gabriel (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
A statue of the Archangel Gabriel stands opposite the cathedral’s two towers, overlooking the ridge of the roof.
West facade (1979) by Chartres CathedralUNESCO World Heritage
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979, Chartres Cathedral receives more than 1 million visitors a year and thousands of pilgrims come to pray each year at the Marian shrine.
This exhibit was created by the Ville de Chartres and the DRAC Centre-Val de Loire: www.chartres.fr, www.culture.gouv.fr/Regions/Drac-Centre-Val-de-Loire
More on the Chartres Cathedral and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/81/
Photos: Ville de Chartres, DRAC Centre-Val de Loire, Région Centre - Val de Loire (Service Patrimoine et Inventaire), Région Centre - Val de Loire, Inventaire Général, Mariusz Hermanowizc, Robert Malnoury.