Heading out early in the morning from Paris, I took the train out into the southwest reaches of what is known as the Île-de-France, my destination the Cathedral of Chartres. Heavy fog blanketed the countryside and was just starting to lift when I reached the town of the same name.
As I exited the train station, the cathedral was slowly appearing out of the mist. It was honestly magical.
By the time I reached the front façade of what is easily one of the most famous Gothic cathedrals in France, the mist was almost completely dissolved from the sky above the town.
The story is similar; a Romanesque cathedral was destroyed by fire, so a Gothic church replaced it and was completed in 1260. The front portal is apparently a remnant of the old cathedral, as well as the crypt, which unfortunately closed the Sunday I visited.
I think it’s pretty obvious that the northern spire was built later in the Flamboyant variant of the Gothic style, while the south tower is older. though it should not be diminished in its technical structural form.
The three portals moving from left to right are filled with angels and saints.
The central portal is famous, with Christ in majesty in a mandorla, the almond shaped frame, with the Four Apostles represented as their four allegorical figures.
The Virgin Mary and Christ Child are presented in the right portal.
Let’s head to the south side, where the iconic flying buttresses are evident besides the scaffolding. There are hulking earlier ones and then more higher more slender ones above.
The older spire shows its less ambitious and more structurally conservative nature with smaller windows and more substantial masonry with blind windows.
Like I said, the flying buttresses are world famous and influential.
The south transept is bedecked with a triple portal.
The cathedral is also renowned for the beauty and integrity of its statuary, well preserved after centuries of war and turmoil.
Like many other cathedrals, the exterior of the choir or apse is blocked by other buildings, but you can still see its flying buttresses and how they curve around the back side of the church.
There are substantial number of chapels built outside the main massing of the cathedral, as you can see here below.
The flying buttresses become the most ambitious in this quadrant.
There is a small chapel which I think was part of the archbishop’s palace.
Back around on the north side, we see similar views.
There is an interesting clock from the Renaissance on this side of the cathedral.
The town of Chartres itself is very beautiful, sitting up in the hills above the countryside, and there are little views out over the land in between the ancient buildings.