☆ Sacred Places Europe: 108 Destinations ☆ France ☆ Chartres ☆
In medieval times, France was a strategic intersection for early commerce and Christian pilgrimages. Middle Age pilgrims started carving out a network of new roads in France leading to religious destinations. Most were known as the Compostela Routes, so named because they all headed to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where the body of Saint James (apostle and cousin of Christ) was reputedly buried. Like Hindus venturing to the Ganges River, medieval Christians seeking repentance would travel to either Rome or Santiago. Along these French pilgrimage routes rose newly-constructed cathedrals and bustling cities. The first travel guide for Europe was Aimery Picaud’s Guide du Pelerin, a book on good and bad places along the various pilgrimage routes.
☆ Chartres ☆
Most travelers to the Loire Valley, west of Paris, are headed for Chartres, a medieval town graced by a magnificent Gothic cathedral. The Chartres Cathedral ranks with Notre Dame, Amiens, and Reims as the finest examples of Gothic architecture in France. It is particularly noted for its exquisite stained glass windows. The renowned windows, some 130 in all, are nearly all originals dating from the 12th and 13th centuries when the cathedral was constructed. The windows feature more than 5,000 figures depicting the lives of the saints and various biblical scenes. The radiating symmetries of the stained glass, as well as the light coming through the famous rose windows, are the true marvels of Chartres Cathedral. Also popular with travelers is the climb to the top of the north tower for a spectacular view of the surrounding area.
Chartres Cathedral and its location hold many unique distinctions. The structure spans the development of the Gothic style of architecture in France. The façade and right tower, completed around 1150 CE, shows the difference between the massive and heavy Romanesque style, alongside the lighter Gothic style on the left. The circular rose window, showing over the front door, is a perfect example of a Gothic motif. The builders of the cathedral were master monks who followed laws of sacred geometry, incorporating various ancient “cubits” of measurement. The hill position, where the cathedral stands, corresponds to major ley lines supposedly connecting Glastonbury, Stonehenge, and the Great Pyramids. It was built upon a sacred pagan mound with a grotto, known in antiquity as the “pregnant Virgin,” which had first housed a Druid temple, only to be replaced by a Roman one. The geometry of Chartres Cathedral resembles a cross-shaped mandala, and is based upon the nine gates of the human body. The cathedral is unique in being virtually unaltered since its consecration in 1260.
Chartres Cathedral is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe and has more than its fair share of mysteries and wonders..
The small city of Chartres is located about 60 miles (97 km) southwest of Paris, and 20 miles (35 km) from the famous Palace of Versailles. Apart from the Cathedral, Chartres is a small and somewhat undistinguished town. Most travelers who come to Chartres arrive from Paris, which is about an hour away by train or bus. The cathedral dominates the oldest center of town and is easy to find.
☆ Fête de la Lumière 2008 ☆
Sacred Places Europe: 108 Destinations / Brad Olsen