Posted by: kdeversblog | September 27, 2017

Chartres Cathedral: Another Notre Dame

The Chartres Cathedral is located 50 miles outside Paris and on the way to the Loire Valley. We opted to visit the cathedral rather than Versailles since there wasn’t time to visit both. The official name of the cathedral is Notre-Dame de Chartres and it is one of more than 100 Notre Dames in France. These cathedrals honor Mary, mother of Jesus as she was more accessible to the medieval people. The Chartres Cathedral is one of the best examples of pure Gothic design.


There were at least four churches built on this same site, possibly beginning with a Roman pagan temple honoring a mother-goddess. The first Christian church was built in 876. When the third church burned to the ground in 1194, the people built the current Chartres Cathedral in record time.

Unlike the Notre Dame in Paris, and other monumental cathedrals that take centuries to build, Chartres was completed in 30 years. This meant that some of the children who witnessed the old church destroyed by the fire were alive to help with the rebuilding and attend its dedication Mass in 1260.

Entering the Cathedral we saw the candles and were surrounded by glowing stained glass windows.

The colors were vibrant, illustrating the Christian biblical stories. I was fascinated by the variations of marble used throughout the cathedral.

We didn’t go on any of the tours, instead we meandered throughout the cathedral and marveled at the beauty of the place. There was no charge for admission so I made a donation for the upkeep and upcoming restoration.

I’m glad we chose to visit this stunning Gothic Cathedral. It was a peaceful way to begin the next phase of our French adventure. Onward to the Loire Valley!


  1. Karen, this post stirred old memories! My parents and I traveled Europe with a tour group when I was 12, and I remember this cathedral. We too, bypassed Versailles for the Chartres cathedral. So, I had to look up some information about it.

    Like probably all Catholic cathedrals, the site is higher than the land around it and is therefore visible to the surrounding countryside. As you said, there have been other churches and temples built on the site dating back to the Druids, and perhaps farther back.

    I distinctly recall the two different towers from my trip. The more ornate one was a “new” bell tower, built in 1513. Some other interesting facts I collected this morning are:

    Its 176 original stained-glass windows are the most complete set of medieval stained glass in the world.

    The cathedral claims to possess the veil that Mary wore when giving birth to Christ. The piece of oriental silk was donated in 876 and survived the fire of 1194. It is still in the treasury today.

    I also learned that inside the cathedral, at its center is a labyrinth, installed in 1205, the largest and the only one still intact in France. A Catholic friend of mine introduced me to labyrinths, and the general resurgence of interest in them. The interesting thing is that labyrinths pre-date Christianity to at least 430 and are also found around the world in one form or another. Some researchers to believe there is something archetypal about them.

  2. 430 B.C, that is.

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