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Chartres, our second stop in France

Dear friends!

Although we are still at home, we continue getting ready for our tour overseas. Last time we discussed our first stop in Paris. Today, we are discussing our second stop in France, the Chartres Cathedral.

This is a masterpiece of medieval architecture, with a troubled history of destruction caused by fire in 743, 1020, 1134, 1194, and 1836. However, many elements from the Roman church are still visible.

When you visit such historical landmarks, you get so impressed that pay no attention to detail. I want you to discover the cathedral for yourself. But we will prepare beforehand for viewing the Southern portal. It will help you better understand the philosophy of this cathedral’s construction.

It may seem to you that the Northern Portal and the Southern Portal have much in common. Yet, it’s far from that. The Southern portal is characterized by its bare style, although at first sight it would seem to you that it is similar to the Northern Portal.

Let’s have a look at the windows and the rose-window of the facade. Unlike the Northern Portal that has a large stained-glass window, the windows of the Southern Portal are barely decorated.

The Southern Portal glorifies Jesus Christ. You can see Christ on the pier of the central door. On both sides of the door stand Apostles and St. Paul. While the Northern Portal narrates how the world was created and celebrates the Holy Virgin, the Southern Portal glorifies the martyrs of Christian Church. Their names are connected with the history of Roman Catholicism.

On the left side of the door near the belfry you will see St. Laurent, St. Clement, St. Etienne, and St. Maurice, and on the right, in knights’ costume you will see St. Denis, St. Piat, and St. Georges. In the tympanum you will recognize Christ as the Supreme Martyr.

The door on the apse glorifies the famous confessors – St. Nicolas, St. Ambrose, St. Leon, St. Martin, St. Jerome, and St. Gregory I. Ambrose lived in the 4th century. He played an outstanding role in converting St. Augustine, to Christianity. He was the friend of Augustine’s mother Monica. St. Martin, who also lived in the 4th century, is the patron saint of France. He established monasticism in Gaul. He was one of the few who had experienced a vision of Jesus Christ. The last I’ve mentioned was Gregory the Great, the last of the four original Doctors of the Church. He sent missionaries to England at the end of the 6th century to convert it to Christianity. Episodes of St. Martin’s life you will see in the tympanum.

On the vaults of the porch arches you will see patriarchs and prophets, in the very center, the virgins on the belfry side, and apostles near the apse. Pay special attention to the lower part of the old belfry. Here, you can see the Angel holding the Dial and the Donkey playing the hurdy-gurdy.

Now, imagine you are going inside. It will take your breath away. Look around and feel unity of your soul with this sacred place. The nave is 37 meters high. Its width is 16, 4 meters. Having admired the panorama of the nave, let’s have a detailed look. The magic number seven is found in intersecting ribs of bays. The transept is also composed of seven bays, similar to the nave. Four clusters of pillars culminate in the vaults.

Come nearer to the choir to enjoy sculptures by Boudin (the beginning of the 17th century). You will enjoy the scenes of Christ’s Baptism, the Lord’s Temptation, and the Canaanite Woman who beseeches God to heal her daughter. The three Magi worshipping and birth and circumcision of Jesus are assigned to Soulas who lived in the 16th century.

Whenever we visit a site of a famous architectural design, we feel impressed by the marvelous structure, wishing we knew more about its history and style beforehand. For you to enjoy your visit to Europe, do some preliminary work, consult guidebooks and encyclopedias.

Good luck!

See you here in a week.

Marco Douglas