20 October 2007

Chartres Cathedral

After PBP, Bob and I decided to take a trip to Chartres and visit the cathedral there. We bought train tickets, but soon found ourselves on the wrong train. We solved it by riding a different line and just getting off where we needed to, so all was not lost.

We stopped for some Greek lunch and strolled through the quiet streets to the cathedral that dominates the town's skyline. The weather was absolutely perfect. A sculpture park is nearby and provides a sharp contrast to the ancient buildings nearby.

As a very important pilgrimage and dating originally from the 4th century, this cathedral was one of the most impressive human-constructed and awe-inspiring places I have ever been. The current visible structure actually dates from around 1194, with the crypts from much earlier with some of the 6th century remains under the choir.

The main entrance is on the West Front and we entered through the right door which represents the seven liberal arts and the Virgin Mary of course. I felt like I should have paid better attention when I got my humanities degree...

From the moment you enter, the interior simply swallows you whole and it amazes with every glance. It doesn't matter that there are numerous other people there; the space is so vast that all sound is mainly respectful silence.

Chartres is known for it's stained glass, but from inside I found that taking any photo of them never did them justice. On a sunny, bright day like this they were glowing.

The choir screen was most interesting to me, an immense story told in panels, intricately carved and overwhelming in scope. These were done between the 1500 and 1700's. There are 41 niches in total. This photo is just one of the pillars between them!

In the nave there in an immense labyrinth in stone. It represented the path one would take to salvation, but also made me think of what a timeless shape the circle makes, whether mandala or bicycle wheel.

Bob and I spent a few hours inside and then strolled the grounds, soaking up the sun and reveling in the views. The areas around complement the cathedral and on a day like this really made us want to stay.

We spent more time walking around the cathedral, but realized that we could spend weeks here and barely scratch the surface. next time, an extended stay will be included! Highly recommended to all who make their way to PBP.