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Gothic Goodness in Chartres

Posted on July 22, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Part of: The Great European Road Trip

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Greetings from Chartres, home of a Gothic cathedral considered to be one of the best in the world. We are staying here for four nights (leaving tomorrow) in a nice central hotel with a cathedral view! And yesterday we took the train into Paris, where we had a very long but very fun day among crowds of fellow Americans. That deserves its own post, which will hopefully happen tomorrow or the next day.

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I'm happy to report we have had wonderful weather here: some storm clouds but mostly sunny with highs around 70 F - much cooler than we ever could have hoped for in mid-July. We are also quite happy with our hotel, which has a wonderfully big bed, excellent shower, and nice modern decor.

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Our hotel's central location means I've been able to make several visits to the cathedral over the last couple days, which is both very enjoyable and necessary for my ambitious photographic goals! I've visited in the early morning and at sunset, in cloudy weather and sun, climbed the north tower, and even dragged the tripod over. On Saturday we watched part of a wedding; on Sunday I caught part of the morning Mass and the evening Vespers, both of which featured solo female singers with voices like angels.

west front My first visit exceeded my expectations. I was really impressed with the pretty spires and light grey stone of the outside, and it was even more spectacular inside. Chartres Cathedral has, I think, the most complete collection of original medieval stained glass anywhere, and the effect of all those jewel-toned windows glowing in the dark interior was really something.

But one major disappointment was the amount of scaffolding currently in place for renovation works. This is necessary, of course, but it's always disappointing when its coincides with my visit! The famed west facade with its glorious rose window and sculpture-filled Royal Portal is hidden behind metal scaffolding and netting, and the south rose window is covered as well. I will just have to return in a few years when it's all done!

So here are a few more of the gazillion photos we now have of this pretty cathedral.

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Flying buttresses on a stormy morning.

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Wonderful stairway leading up to a chapel.

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Views from the tower

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The famous labyrinth in the floor of the nave, which dates from 1205. Unfortunately they clear away the chairs only on Fridays.

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Much-venerated statue of the Virgin Mary.

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The north rose window, c. 1230.

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The same window from the outside, at sunset

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Details from the Zodiac Window: Aries the Ram and warming feet in February.

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More zodiac signs on the north portal. (The lobster is Scorpio.)

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Big chancel screen, which divides the roomy ambulatory from the choir. It dates from the early 1500s.

Tomorrow we move on to Amiens for our last two nights in France! Photos of Paris soon.