Fodor's Expert Review Cathédrale Notre-Dame

Chartres Religious Building/Site/Shrine Fodor's Choice

Worship on the site of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, better known as Chartres Cathedral, goes back to before the Gallo-Roman period—the crypt contains a well that was the focus of druid ceremonies. In the late 9th century Charles II (aka "the Bald") presented Chartres with what was believed to be the tunic of the Virgin Mary, a precious relic that went on to attract hordes of pilgrims. The current cathedral, the sixth church on the spot, dates mainly to the 12th and 13th centuries and was erected after the previous building, dating to the 11th century, burned down in 1194. A well-chronicled outburst of religious fervor followed the discovery that the Virgin Mary's relic had miraculously survived unsinged. Motivated by this “miracle,” princes and paupers, barons and bourgeoisie gave their money and their labor to build the new cathedral. Ladies of the manor came to help monks and peasants on the scaffolding in a tremendous resurgence of religious faith that followed the Second Crusade.... READ MORE

Worship on the site of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, better known as Chartres Cathedral, goes back to before the Gallo-Roman period—the crypt contains a well that was the focus of druid ceremonies. In the late 9th century Charles II (aka "the Bald") presented Chartres with what was believed to be the tunic of the Virgin Mary, a precious relic that went on to attract hordes of pilgrims. The current cathedral, the sixth church on the spot, dates mainly to the 12th and 13th centuries and was erected after the previous building, dating to the 11th century, burned down in 1194. A well-chronicled outburst of religious fervor followed the discovery that the Virgin Mary's relic had miraculously survived unsinged. Motivated by this “miracle,” princes and paupers, barons and bourgeoisie gave their money and their labor to build the new cathedral. Ladies of the manor came to help monks and peasants on the scaffolding in a tremendous resurgence of religious faith that followed the Second Crusade. Just 25 years were needed for Chartres Cathedral to rise again, and it has remained substantially unchanged ever since. As spiritual as Chartres is, the cathedral also had its more earthbound uses. Look closely and you can see that the main nave floor has a subtle slant. It was designed to provide drainage because this part of the church was often used as a "hostel" by thousands of overnighting pilgrims in medieval time.

Though your eyes will need time to adjust to the somber interior, the reward is seeing the gemlike richness of the stained glass, with the famous deep Chartres blue predominating. The Royal Portal is richly sculpted with scenes from the life of Christ—these sculpted figures are among the greatest created during the Middle Ages. The rose window above the main portal dates from the 13th century, and the three windows below it contain some of the finest examples of 12th-century stained-glass artistry in France. The oldest window is arguably the most beautiful: Notre-Dame de la Belle Verrière (Our Lady of the Lovely Window), in the south choir.

Guided tours in English are offered at noon and 2:45, Monday through Saturday, Easter to mid-October. For a bird's-eye view, book a tour of the towers. Guided tours of the Crypte start from the Maison de la Crypte opposite the south porch.

READ LESS
Religious Building/Site/Shrine Fodor's Choice

Quick Facts

16 cloître Notre-Dame
Chartres, Centre-Val de Loire  28000, France

-02–37–21–75–02

www.chartres-tourisme.com

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: Crypt €3, tours €7.50 , Crypt €4, towers €6, tours €10

What’s Nearby