Chartres Cathedral

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Chartres Cathedral
UNESCO world heritage UNESCO World Heritage Emblem

Chartres Cathedral.jpg
Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral
National territory: FranceFrance France
Type: Culture
Criteria : (i) (ii) (iv)
Surface: 1.06 ha
Buffer zone: 62.41 ha
Reference No .: 81bis
UNESCO region : Europe and North America
History of enrollment
Enrollment: 1979  ( session 3 )
Chartres Cathedral floor plan

The Notre-Dame Cathedral of Chartres ( French: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres [ nɔtʀə ˈdam də ˈʃaʀtʀə ]) in Chartres is the “archetype” of the High Gothic cathedral . The cathedral is the seat of the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chartres .

In 876 consecrated Charles the Bald there is a church , and gave the sanctuary a holy relic known as Sancta Camisia called tunic that the Virgin Mary in the promise of the birth of Jesus by the archangel Gabriel - (known as the Annunciation to have worn -) . Today a cloth of this tunic measuring approximately 30 × 30 cm can be viewed in the cathedral.

The current Gothic building began shortly after 1194 and lasted until 1260 (official consecration on October 24, 1260). The building is over 130 meters long and 64 meters wide.

In 1908 the church was elevated to a minor basilica . As early as 1979, the cathedral was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Register . The sculptor Auguste Rodin called it the Acropolis of France .


Chartres is unique in several ways. The church has an absolutely dominant effect in the still relatively small town, can be seen from afar in the flat landscape and thus even today gives approximately the impression that it had had on contemporaries since the 13th century, as such a building as a supernatural divine symbol in the profane environment. The cathedral of a city was the largest and highest room, especially since at that time there were usually no other permanent public buildings such as town halls, theaters and market halls.

Chartres has never been destroyed. While the portal figures at many cathedrals were lost in the iconoclasm of the Huguenots or the French Revolution and countless stained glass fell victim to the need for more brightness, in Chartres the highly important plastic decoration of the cathedral is almost intact, as are almost all 176 windows. Therefore, no other cathedral can convey the atmosphere of high Gothic so intensely and unadulterated.

Many decisive artistic and cultural-historical currents from the late 12th and early 13th centuries converge in this cathedral and have therefore prompted a number of authors to provide detailed representations and interpretations.


Plan of the crypt

Previous buildings

The oldest wall in the cathedral is the Celtic fountain in the crypt. Its round tunnel pipe ends 33.55 m below the floor of the crypt in a square basin precisely aligned with the cardinal points. The well was filled in in the 17th century and dug up again by René Merlét at the beginning of the 20th century . There are legends according to which druids would have worshiped a "virgo paritura" (virgin who will give birth) at the later site of the cathedral.

The first cathedral building on the site was built in the middle of the 4th century, at that time at the foot of the Gallo-Roman curtain wall. Today it is also called the Cathedral of Aventinus , after the city's first bishop. In 743 or 753 this church was burned down by Visigoth troops under Duke Hunald of Aquitaine .

The successor building that was soon built was destroyed by Viking pirates in 858 ; Bishop Giselbert had it rebuilt larger. The walls of today's Chapelle Saint-Lubin (Chapel of St. Leobinus of Chartres ) are supposed to rest on the foundations of this third cathedral building .

In 876, Charles the Bald bequeathed the Cathedral the Sancta Camisia , the shirt that Mary is said to have worn when Jesus was born. According to other sources, the Virgin Mary wore the robe when the Archangel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to her. Since then Chartres has had one of the most important relics of the West . The related Marian pilgrimages were the city's most important economic factor for centuries.

On August 5, 962, the Carolingian cathedral went up in flames during a war between Duke Richard I of Normandy and the Count of Chartres . The successor building was 1020 victims of an accident on September 7th to 8th.

Thereupon Bishop Fulbert had a new Romanesque building built. The still preserved crypt of the fifth cathedral was built that same year. It extends not only under the entire choir , but also as a tube under the entire length of the aisles . A museum is also housed here today. It took four years to build and was completed in 1024. The consecration took place in 1037, eight years after Fulbert's death. As early as 1134 there was another city fire in Chartres, which only destroyed the vestibule and a tower of the newly built church. A new north tower was immediately built in front of the old facade and completed in 1150. The royal portal, built around 1145, found its place between the new north tower and the old south tower. It may have been implemented. The scholars argue about the date and manner of this transfer, because an exact interpretation of the individual elements depends on it. What is known for certain is that it was carried out before 1194.

City fire of 1194 and today's building

Labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral

On the night of June 10th to 11th, 1194, a town fire almost completely destroyed the Romanesque church. It was decided immediately to build a new building on the old foundation walls in order to keep the construction time as short as possible. With that the dimensions of the sixth cathedral were fixed at this point. In addition to the foundation walls and crypt, the famous three-part royal portal, the "Porte Royale", was taken over from the fifth cathedral and is therefore older than the rest of the building.

The new construction began in 1194. According to the records, the construction was proceeding quickly - the cathedral is said to have been vaulted as early as 1220. Transept portals, stained glass windows and sculptures were not completed until 1260, so the new church was only consecrated 66 years after construction began. The master builder Villard de Honnecourt , who also designed the famous Chartres labyrinth, played a significant role in the design .

Architectural-historical classification

The rapid construction progress for a Gothic cathedral is in the context of that time and in the particular importance of the cathedral for the city of Chartres: from 1180 to 1270, around 80 cathedrals and almost 500 monasteries were built in France, so representative churches were almost rebuilt throughout the country the bet.

The - by today's standards - small community of fewer than 10,000 members also had a special motivation to build and finance such a large church in such a short time. Chartres, with its relic, was the center of Marian devotion throughout Europe, and the city believed that, with the help of Mary, it was under special divine protection. At first, the fear was all the greater that with the fall of the city by the fire, this world-famous relic would also be robbed. After a few days it became apparent that the tunic in the treasury had remained intact, where prudent priests had brought it just in time. A great relief went through the population. Now one saw in the event of the fire and the " wonderful " rescue of the relic a heavenly invitation to the city to dedicate a new, more splendid church building to the Virgin and her relic. So here religious ideas and economic considerations came together. The stream of pilgrims could not stop if the city wanted to survive.

Besides Notre-Dame de Chartres, the cathedrals of Soissons and Bourges are among the most important Gothic buildings of those years . Notre Dame in Paris was built a little earlier and is considered to be an important forerunner; the cathedrals of Reims (1211) and Amiens (around 1220) , which were started later, adopted essential features of Chartres architecture.

The Gothic style did not find its way into the German cultural sphere until 1235 when construction began on the Elisabeth Church in Marburg .

Competition between Chartres and Bourges

At the beginning of the classical phase in the development of Gothic architecture there were two fundamentally different approaches, of which only one apparently prevailed and which has become much better known, namely that of Chartres from around 1194. Almost in the same year - 1195 / 96 - but the foundation stone was also laid for Bourges Cathedral , which developed a different construction principle - above all for the interior. Bourges is often seen in an outsider role, as the building found little followers. Nevertheless, some specialist authors are of the opinion that the approach of Gothic architecture was carried out more consistently in Bourges and that it also caught on, even if it was not so directly evident. Chartres used to be considered the “classic” Gothic cathedral, but its importance has declined in current research.

West facade

West elevation of Chartres Cathedral

The lower part of the west facade dates back to 1134. At that time the left tower and the portal were built. The south tower followed in 1145–1160. It has a height of 105 meters. It was not until much later, 1500–1513, that the upper floors of the north tower were added with a height of 115 meters in the then current Flamboyant style.

Portal system

The western portal system

The statues of the Chartres king portal from 1145/50 are the oldest preserved Gothic statues in art history. Those of Saint-Denis that had been created earlier were destroyed and have only survived in their appearance in drawings by Montfaucon . The entire portal system is also the first preserved step portal , which has sculptures on the side walls as well as in the tympanum , on the lintels and on the archivolts .

To us today these statues seem strange, sacred and inaccessible. But if you take a closer look, you can see numerous details that speak against this “sacred distance”: In addition to the clothing, the hair is also precisely and individually reproduced, as is the gemstone jewelry on the coats and crowns. An aura of courtly luxury, of highly cultivated neatness surrounds the royal figures, who definitely have this-worldly traits. Willibald Sauerländer sums up the basic principle of Gothic sculpture in France as follows: "The sensualization of the religious under the conditions of court society, that was the real, deeper content of all Gothic cathedral sculpture ."

These figures are also important because Christianity, from its origins, had a deep distrust of all sculptural works. It believed pagan fantasies at work here, as the ancient gods were worshiped in such statues. The Eastern Church discussed during the time of the iconoclastic controversy over one and a half centuries - of 726 to the 9th century in -. Whether a representation of God is at all admissible and decided that at least a representation of Christ was therefore allowed because he had become a man.

With the victory of Christianity, plastic was banned from art for a long time in the western world, which had been the focus of ancient art for more than a millennium. It disappears from the history of our culture for a long period from the 5th century onwards. The early Middle Ages had almost no sculpture at all for a long time. Their rebirth in the 11th and especially in the 12th century is therefore a decisive event in the history of Christian art.

This process can only be understood from the new general need for a sensual, so to speak naturally comprehensible, visualization of the history of salvation . The desire to understand the world on a rational, intellectual level grew stronger, and the church could not escape these changes either. People wanted to see in pictures what the church taught - not just hear them anymore.

For some years, however, another aspect has been increasingly emphasized in research, which celebrates this Chartres royal portal not only as a liberation of sculpture from its integration into the architecture, but also reminds us that it was essential to the Romanesque church portals in the decades before had given more imaginative, animated images. Horst Bredekamp in particular formulated the idea that here in Chartres, on the contrary, it is a question of a withdrawal, a restriction of the imagination, based on a dramatic discussion that especially Bernhard von Clairvaux had instigated and that opposed the pomp of the new gothic cathedrals.

“In Chartres, sculpture is denatured in architecture in order to oppose the imaginative defensive magic of the Romanesque with the alternative of an inherently secure world order. With the western portal sculpture from the realm of liberty in a theologically closely drawn Dominium "transferred. . Also Suger of St-Denis got the anger of Bernard of Clairvaux feel and therefore has published a written defense.

There have actually been much more moving representations before, for example in Vézelay and Autun . These statues here are therefore themselves a further development as statues, but a certain step backwards in their formulation.

Right portal: Incarnation of Christ

Right portal of the west facade

The story that is told on the west facade must be read from right to left. The right portal shows the incarnation of Christ as a general theme in the tympanum: in the middle one sees Mary on the so-called ' throne of wisdom ', the ' sedes sapientiae ', with the child between two angels. In this posture she is herself this throne, the seat for the Son of God. On the middle strip of the picture, Christ appears in the temple and on the lintel a whole sequence of scenes appears. From left to right: the Annunciation, the Visitation, Joseph, then the scene of the birth in the middle with the double scene “Mary in the puerperium” below and “Christ as a newborn in the manger” above and then the adoration of the shepherds. Corresponding to the theme, angels and the secular sciences are represented in the two archivolts.

On the far left is a small older man with a desk, an inkwell and quills, above a female figure enthroned with a staff. Aristotle and the dialectic can be seen in both . This emphasizes the artes liberales , the ' propaedeutica ' for the knowledge of the sedes sapientiae, the highest wisdom at the center of the presentation.

In the case of the columnar figures, research in the group on the left is particularly uncertain and avoids attributions. On the right are shown from the inside out: an apostle, a king and a queen.

This right portal is the entrance portal into the church today . As is often the case in such cases, the central portal is only opened on special occasions.

It must also be mentioned that in many cases the individual scenes no longer correspond to the original arrangement, but were changed in the Middle Ages.

Middle portal: Königsportal

Central portal of the west facade

The central portal shows in the tympanum Christ in the mandorla as judge of the Last Judgment, surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists: above Matthew as a human being on the left, on the right Johannes as an eagle, below Mark as a lion and Luke as a bull. The apostles are depicted in a row on the lintel.

The figures on the top two strips of archivolts show the elders of the Last Judgment, also known as the "apocalyptic old men".

Except for the figure on the far left (probably a prophet or patriarch of the Old Testament), the depicted persons in the right robe could be ascribed almost exactly as an exception: the second from the left is David, then either Bathsheba, i.e. David's wife, or the Queen of Sheba - and on the far right is Solomon, David's son.

The left garment shows from the outside in: a queen, a patriarch and a prophet.

The strong dependence of these figures on the basic shape of a column becomes clear here again, whereby one must of course think of the symbolic meaning of the column as the bearer of faith and from there must also establish a connection between the kings depicted here and the French king who himself also seen as a "pillar of faith".

At the time this portal was created in 1150, the sculpture is still largely dependent on the architecture and integrated into it, here in the form of columns. That will change significantly with the statues of the transept portals in 1220, 70 years later.

Günther Binding writes on the general system in the design of such large and important portal systems: “The large Gothic portals are therefore a reflection of the hierarchical order of the kingdom of God: Christ is enthroned above everything as judge of the world or in glorification; on the garments the ancestors of Christ, the prophets, especially venerated saints, but also virtues and vices; in the capitals and arches the passion of the Lord; in the archivolts the choirs of angels, church fathers, saints, apostles; in the base often relief representations from human life with images of the seasons, months and zodiac. " .

Left portal: Ascension of Christ

Left portal of the west facade

The left portal shows the ascension of Christ in the tympanum (according to another interpretation it is the creation of the world), accompanied by two angels on the right and left. In the strip below, angels proclaim the good news to which the apostles of the lintel below are listening. On the two archivolts strips above the tympanum, the typical jobs of the year, the monthly jobs and the corresponding signs of the zodiac are shown - as elements of time and space. Divine salvation is thereby placed in relation to the world. It can be reached through the study of wisdom, the artes liberales quoted on the right portal. The two side portals thus correspond to different layers of meaning. The monthly pictures are intended as a supplement, as symbols of practical work to that of spiritual knowledge, as an indication of the physical possession of the world.

The capitals of all the pillars are connected to a single frieze that covers the entire portal complex , the approximately 40 scenes of which are distributed over two strands, both of which start from the middle and have the following themes: the story of the parents of Mary, the story of Mary herself and the The childhood of Jesus, then the public appearance and finally the passion of Christ. These stories do not necessarily come from the Bible, but belong to the so-called apocryphal scriptures . These are "hidden" scriptures that were not included in the official text of the Bible, but were nevertheless taken as God's word or at least divine inspiration. Throughout the Middle Ages, these texts were very popular because they dealt with the more mundane aspects of the life of Christ and the saints.

The right garment of this portal shows inside Moses with the tablets of the law, then an empty column and a torso. Behind the figures you can see that there are additional richly decorated intermediate columns, which show traditional interwoven plants and integrated fantasy beings.

In the left garment are arranged from the outside to the inside: a king (the head was later replaced as a woman's head), a king and a ruler.

The number of vestment statues in the entire complex was originally 24, but some had to be replaced by columns in the meantime; some of the original ones are in the crypt.

The fact that this cycle was actually attached to the outside of the entrance indicates that there is a transition from the profane to the ecclesiastical area. Already in early Christian times this transition was pointed out in such places by painting sayings on the walls. Chartres has one of the earliest image programs to offer. The immense scope and the theologically closed system of representations are also new. The narrative moments are of secondary importance.

Transept facades

North portal (Marienportal)

North portal center, heliogravure by Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus, 1867

Very extensive three-dimensional programs have also been created on the transepts. In contrast to the west facade, the transepts have roofed portal zones, which has provided the sculptures with excellent protection against the weather for centuries until today. These transept facades take up the Laon model from around 1200, which was not possible in the west because the facade there remained after the fire in 1194 and was retained due to the veneration.

Tympanum of the north portal

The north portal has the Old Testament and the life of Mary as a general theme - and is therefore referred to in its entirety as the Marian portal. The fact that Mary was able to achieve such a meaning at all alongside the figure of Christ is due to the mysticism of Bernhard von Clairvaux , who placed her very much in the center. From now on, many cathedrals in France will be named after her, after 'Notre-Dame'.

Mary is depicted here in the tympanum under a canopy of the throne with Christ who blesses her. This corresponds to the scheme of the coronation of Mary , without a coronation act taking place, which is why one can speak of a triumph or a glorification of Mary. It's a representative picture; the figures face each other and are adored by angels. The theological program here sees Mary as the 'bride of Christ', as 'Sponsa Christi', which in this respect forms the Ecclesia par excellence.

On the lintel below, the death and the Ascension of Mary are depicted, scenes that have not been included in the Bible text. The expansion of this program or this idea takes place on the archivolts and the vestments. Left and right are the representatives of the old covenant.

The right portal is completely different again. It shows scenes from the Old Testament, a. a. a rare scene of a man in a loincloth on a hill. He is under the threat of a monster: It is Job. Friends visit him in his misery. Job stands here as a prototype for the Church's suffering under the devil and her obedience to Christ . He points to the Passion of Christ in words and fate .

The whole program shows different aspects of a basic idea: Christ and Ecclesia. The church triumphs in heaven (sponsus - sponsa) and fights on earth (Job).

The dating of this portal varies in the specialist literature. The only certain date is 1204/05, when the Count of Blois in the cathedral presented the relic of the head of St. Anna donated what was apparently the occasion, St. To choose Anna as the dream figure instead of - as would be expected given the portal program - the Virgin Mary. She now appears as a child (head lost) in the arms of her mother Anna. On the double pillar in the vestibule of the middle portal on the right (see fig. 'North portal' top right) are the parents of Our Lady: St. Anna (book with clasp in the left hand) and the sacrificing St. Joachim (with incense curler). In the relief cylinders of the two column shafts below (according to 1 Samuel, chapters 3 and 4) the story of the loss and recovery of the old Mosaic Ark of the Covenant (missing since the destruction of the first temple by Nebuchadnezzar) is depicted. This is what St. Anna Immaculate Mary, the Mother of God, juxtaposed with the Old Testament ark as 'The New Ark of the Covenant in the New Temple of Chartres'.

The portal is usually placed between 1220/30. You can also find dates around 1205/10. Perhaps the extensive program was only planned in this earlier period. Around 1220, a new, classical phase in the history of sculpture began throughout Western Europe and lasted until around 1270. The great figure cycles here in Chartres, but also those in Reims , Amiens , Strasbourg , Freiberg (1220/30 Golden Gate of the Cathedral as the first complete statue portal on German soil), Bamberg , Magdeburg and Naumburg are now being created. Chartres is the great model, where the figure program of the transepts was probably planned from 1210.

A look at the left portal shows that a major stylistic change has taken place here compared to the figures in the King's Portal. The slim, “spiritualized” saints have become stable, lifelike bodies. The robes no longer lie close to the body, have gained more volume and lead a moving life of their own.

South Portal (Last Judgment)

South view, lithograph by Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus
South portal, heliogravure by Lassus around 1850, Imprimerie Imperiale, 1867

In contrast to the north portal, the south portal has the New Testament as its theme and especially the Last Judgment as the sunny side. The dating is the same as that of the north portal, i.e. probably the planning around 1210 and the execution between 1220 and 1230.

Given the enormous expansion of this sculptural program, it is clear that not only one sculptor worked here, but that there was a whole school here, that many stonemasons came together here and created a coherent work that was unique in the whole of the Latin West in its time , achieved fame and had a decisive influence on the development of sculpture.

In these workshops, with their enormous need for employees, there were undoubtedly also young Germans who then brought their knowledge of the new art to Strasbourg etc. Just as all ages worked side by side in these huge workshops and represented different stages of development, so were equally less talented and brilliant sculptors. This gave an enormous variety of stylistic and qualitative differences. Formally older things could emerge later than progressives, which causes the considerable uncertainty in dating questions.

A comparison between the right-hand group of three - the saints - can serve as an example of the hardly decidable juxtaposition and succession of different stages of development or individualities Stephanus, Clemens and Laurentius - and between St. Theodor on the left. The right group forms a kind of action unit of the celebrating Pope in the middle with two accompanying deacons. This group is more committed to past frontality and columnarism than St. Theodor on the left, who is considered to be one of the most perfect embodiments of the knightly human ideal in the 13th century (1215–1270). He wears the contemporary costume of warriors. Under the loosely falling robe with its natural folds, which gain in plastic strength and heaviness downwards, the harmoniously proportioned body, which is covered by chain mail, moves freely. The feet stand firmly on a horizontal plate, which is not the case with Clemens and his companions. "Nothing raw, violent, unslaughtered" is more in this picture of a knight, "whose beauty testifies to a new civilization, a new conception of the nobility."

inner space

Inside of the cathedral around 1750, JB Rigaud

The central nave of Chartres was completed in 1220. With a vault height of 36.5 meters, it has the first four-part Gothic vault and the first three-part wall elevation of the High Gothic. The galleries , which in Laon so decisively determined the spatial appearance as a dominant horizontal band, could be omitted through the invention of the buttress - in favor of a stronger emphasis on the height. The cathedral of Chartres and then that of Bourges , with their support systems, overcome the horizontally structured storeys of Laon and Paris, emphasizing the vertical tendency of the space and allowing the services to run down to the floor, so that they are not placed on top of the column capitals. The arcade zone is no longer excluded from the general urge to climb.

With the omission of the gallery, something occurred in Chartres that can be described as “superficialization”. The gallery previously had a strong spatial effect - in Noyon , Laon and also in Paris . Together with the aisles underneath, it allowed parts of the room behind the wall to take effect - the view went down, as it were. Now a different principle comes into effect in Chartres, namely an illuminated surface, a “board-like grid wall”.

“In Laon - still in the Romanesque sense - space and three-dimensional volume are mutually dependent and mutually emphasize each other. They are replaced in Chartres by an illuminated flatness defined by essentially linear values. "

Chartres has the widest central nave in France at 16.40 meters. Its width was not an arbitrary decision, but determined by the dimensions of the previous church, on whose foundation walls one built. On this foundation, the vaults are now at a much greater height. Nevertheless, following the artistic guiding principle of the illuminated room, the load-bearing walls should largely be omitted. In Chartres that three-storey elevation appears first, which was to become canonical for the cathedrals of the classical Gothic . This brought the Gothic back to the elevation system of its early days in Sens , albeit in a significantly different form.

The window zone is of the same height as that of the arcades. Both are again in a ratio of 1: 1 - like the crossing square . This numerical ratio was considered perfect in the 12th century and its geometric representation as the image of the deity. The church still has a dark triforium . The double windows of the clerestory with the overlying Rose were built 1215-1240 and are considered direct precursor to the tracery of the cathedral of Reims from the year 1220th

The fact that Chartres has four-part vaults again, as in the early Gothic times, does not mean that the old forms are also taken up here. Because the vaults in Chartres span much narrower yokes that are twice as wide as they are deep. In contrast, the early Gothic four-part vaults were almost square. This brings a new dynamic to the liturgical procession from the entrance to the altar. The same principles are at work here that first optically set the facade in motion at the beginning of the Gothic period and then liberated the interior from the weight of the wall and transformed it into a system of lines of force. And now here in Chartres the rapid succession of narrow yokes suggests a rhythmic movement that no longer has much to do with the measured gravity in Romanesque walls.

Rosette of the north transept with five pointed arch windows underneath, which were created around 1230 on the basis of a donation from Blanka of Castile .

It has been said of Chartres that for the first time the architecture was only understood as a framework for the total of 176 windows. In Chartres, the windows take on roughly the same function that was previously assigned to the rear room stratification, but change the view from a dark interior to a light exterior. Chartres has the largest inventory of preserved original windows of all Gothic cathedrals. The window areas span 2600 m² and were mostly created in the period from 1215 to 1240, the west window under the rose as early as 1150, so they survived the fire of 1194. The cathedral is equipped with a total of over 10,000 figures in glass and stone.

It was only later that large tracery windows were added to the transepts in the upper part of the Lichtgaden, the only ones not dating from the 13th century. Given the immense size of the room, this small break in style is not particularly noticeable.

Chartres has developed a special shape for the design of its mighty pillars, in which slim accompanying columns stand in front of the longitudinal and transverse axes of a pillar. This form is called a cantoned pillar . This also made an effect possible, the cause of which is not immediately apparent to many visitors. If you compare, you can see that there is an alternating alternation with regard to the shape of the pillars and the three-quarter columns presented: one time the pillar is octagonal and has four round three-quarter columns, the other time four octagonal columns are presented to a round pillar - one very ingenious idea, which gives the yoke system of the nave a light, barely noticeable rhythm.



Look at the Rückpositiv

The history of the organ in Chartres Cathedral can be traced back to the 14th century; a written order to build an organ is dated to 1349. Not much is known about the instrument itself; it initially only had a manual. Over the centuries the organ has been reorganized and expanded several times; it received further manual works and in the 18th century also a pedal . After a fire in the cathedral in 1836, the damaged instrument was restored by the organ builder Gadault in 1844 and was equipped with three manuals and a pedal. The organ case , which was classified as a “monument historique” as early as 1840, was retained even after a comprehensive overhaul of the mechanical work by the organ builder Gutschnritter-Mercklin in 1911.

Today's organ work was created between 1969 and 1971 by the organ builder Danion-Gonzalez . Since then, the instrument has 68 stops on four manuals and a pedal with the following disposition . The actions are electro-pneumatic. The Concours international d'Orgue - Grand Prix de Chartres , which takes place every two years, is one of the most important organ competitions.

I Grand-Orgue C-g 3
01. Montre 16 ′
02. Bourdon 16 ′
03. Montre 08th'
04th Flute 08th'
05. Bourdon 08th'
06th Prestant 04 ′
07th Flute 04 ′
08th. Duplicate 02 ′
09. Fittings II
10. Fittings III
11. Cymbals IV
12. Cornet V (from g 0 )0
13. Bombard 16 ′
14th Trumpets 08th'
15th Clairon 04 ′
II positive C-g 3
16. Montre 08th'
17th Flute 08th'
18th Bourdon 08th'
19th Prestant 04 ′
20th Flute 04 ′
21st Duplicate 02 ′
22nd Nazard 02 23
23. Tierce 01 35
24. Larigot 01 13
25th Cornet V (from c 1 )0
26th Plein-jeu IV
27. Cymbals III
28. Cromorne 08th'
29 Trumpets 08th'
30th Clairon 04 ′
III Récit C – g 3
31. Principal 08th'
32. Cor de nuit 08th'
33. Viol 08th'
34. Voix Celeste 08th'
35. Flute 04 ′
36. Viole 04 ′
37. Duplicate 02 ′
38. Sesquialtera II
39. Plein jeu IV
40. Cymbals III
41. Voix Humaine 08th'
42. Basson Haubois0 08th'
43. Bombard 16 ′
44. Trumpets 08th'
45. Clairon 04 ′
IV echo C-g 3
46. Principal 08th'
47. Bourdon 08th'
48. Flute 04 ′
49. Duplicate 02 ′
50. Nazard 02 23
51. Tierce 01 35
52. Piccolo 01'
53. Cymbals III0
54. Trumpets 08th'
55. Clairon 04 ′
Pedalier C – g 1
56. Principal 32 ′
57. Montre (= No. 1)0 16 ′
58. Soubasse 16 ′
59. Montre 08th'
60. Bourdon 08th'
61. Principal 04 ′
62. Flute 04 ′
63. Flute 02 ′
64. Plein jeu V
65. Basson 08th'
66. Bombard 16 ′
67. Trumpets 08th'
68. Clairon 04 ′
  • Coupling: II / I, III / I, III / II, IV / I, IV / III, I / P, II / P, III / P, IV / P


Six bells once hung in the north tower of the cathedral, including three "Bourdons". The cathedral's two largest and oldest bells weighed an estimated 15 and 10 tons. In 1793 the bells were melted down for war purposes.

In the north tower of the cathedral there are now 6 bells, most of which were cast in 1845. They have the beat notes g 0 , h 0 , d 1 , e 1 , f sharp 1 and g 1 .


Astronomical clock in the cathedral choir

Of the numerous peculiarities of Chartres Cathedral, only a few are mentioned here:

  • The cathedral is laid out in a southwest-northeast direction, not the usual west-east.
  • The whole building is based on special numerical relationships, the origins of which have only just begun to be clarified. The secured scientific knowledge and rational justifications are always contrasted with esoteric views.
  • The ground rises slightly from the west portal over a length of about eight meters. Allegedly, this is said to have facilitated the drainage of the water during the cleaning of the church after a great pilgrimage. However, this explanation must be called unlikely.
  • A labyrinth is embedded in the floor (made around 1200), the largest in a French church and one of the few original ones. It has a diameter of about 12.5 meters and a path length of 261.55 meters. The metal plate that was once placed in the middle, depicting Theseus and the Minotaur, has disappeared.
  • Beneath the crypt is the 33-meter-deep Puits des Saints Fort well, dating from the Gallo-Roman period .
  • In the crypt there is a sculpture of a Madonna , Notre-Dame-Sous-Terre , sometimes referred to as the Black Madonna. It is a copy of the original that was burned during the Revolution and a replacement for its predecessor from 1857. Like the original, it is carved from pear wood and colored brown.
  • On a pillar in the area between the north transept and the choir is another Madonna statue, Notre Dame du Pilier (around 1540), which has not appeared dark since its restoration in 2013.
  • In the first window above the south ambulatory, light shines through a medieval stained glass , which also depicts a Madonna, Notre Dame de la Belle Verrière (made between the mid-12th and mid-13th centuries).
  • On the day of the summer solstice in June, when the sun is at its highest point, a ray of light falls through a small hole in the Saint-Apollinaire window (west wall of the transept) on a brass button that is embedded in the floor of the west aisle of the south transept.
  • A new color of glass has been developed for the cathedral, Chartres blue, which is known for its purity. It is in the windows, the secret of the manufacture of this color was taken to the grave by the glassmakers. According to recent studies , the color of the glass is based on cobalt , which comes from the Saxon Ore Mountains . There are also glass windows colored with cobalt blue in numerous other churches, so the technology itself was no secret, but the unique coloring of the windows of Chartres Cathedral remains unmatched.


  • Philip Ball: Universe of Stone. Chartres Cathedral and the Triumph of the Medieval Mind. Vintage Books, London 2009, ISBN 978-0-09-949944-2 .
  • Jean-François Bougard: Chartres ou les cathédrales du nombre. 2003, ISBN 978-2-909507-17-0 .
  • Martin Büchsel: The sculpture of the transept of Chartres Cathedral. Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-7861-1724-1 .
  • Helge Burggrabe u. a .: Chartres. Listen with the soul. A spiritual journey of discovery Kösel-Verlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-466-36878-5 .
  • Nicolas-Marie-Joseph Chapuy : Cathédrales françaises. Vues pittoresques de la cathédrale de Chartres . Paris 1828. ( digitized version )
  • Louis Charpentier: The Secrets of Chartres Cathedral. Knaur, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-426-87141-6 .
  • Tilman Evers: Logos and Sophia. The King's Portal and the School of Chartres. Ludwig, Kiel 2011, ISBN 978-3-86935-053-0 .
  • Jean Favier : The Chartres Universe. Notre Dame Cathedral. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-17-010648-1 .
  • Roland Halfen: Chartres. Creation building and world of ideas in the heart of Europe. 4 volumes. Meyer, Stuttgart 2001–2011.
  • Hans Robert Hahnloser : Villard de Honnecourt . Critical complete edition of the Bauhüttenbuch ms. fr 19093 in the Paris National Library. Vienna 1935. (on the labyrinth: pp. 38–40, appendix plate 14 and fig. 40); New edition Graz 1972, ISBN 3-201-00768-4 .
  • Joris-Karl Huysmans : La Cathédrale . 1898 (German: The Cathedral , only available as an antiquarian).
  • Karl Heyer: The miracle of Chartres. 1926 (New edition: Orient-Occident-Verlag, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-922551-06-8 .)
  • Sonja Ulrike Klug: Cathedral of the Cosmos. The Sacred Geometry of Chartres. Bad Honnef, 3rd edition 2008, ISBN 3-9810245-1-6 .
  • Brigitte Kurmann-Schwarz, Peter Kurmann: Chartres. The Cathedral. Schnell and Steiner, Regensburg 2001, ISBN 3-7954-1234-X .
  • Michael Ladwein: Chartres. A guide to the cathedral. Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-8251-7135-3 .
  • Jan van der Meulen, Jürgen Hohmeyer: Chartres. Biography of a cathedral. Du Mont, Cologne 1984, ISBN 3-7701-1190-7 .
  • George Pennington: The Chartres Tablets . 1996 (a book about meditation practice based on the so-called "panels").
  • Willibald Sauerländer : The king portal of Chartres. Salvation history and reality of life. Fischer TB, Frankfurt am Main 1984, ISBN 3-596-23911-7 .
  • Benita von Schröder: The Mystery of Chartres. Image and composition secrets of the portals and stained glass. Urachhaus, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-87838-919-1 .
  • Frank Teichmann: Man and his temple - Chartres. Urachhaus, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-87838-688-5 .
  • Jean Villette: Le plan de la cathédrale des Chartres. Hasard ou stricte geometry? 3e éd. Editions Garnier, Chartres, 1991/1998.
  • Jobst D. Wolter: The labyrinth in the cathedral of Chartres. A Michaelic symbol of Christ. Verlag am Goetheaneum, Dornach 1996, ISBN 3-7235-0970-3 .
  • Mieke Mosmuller : Chartres. Another view of the cathedral. Occident Verlag, Baarle-Nassau 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-051079-3 .

Web links

Commons : Chartres Cathedral  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Frayling, Christopher: Mysterious World - A journey through the Middle Ages, vgs Cologne 1995, p. 57, ISBN 3-8025-1301-0 .
  2. Hans-Egon Müller: Notre-Dame von Chartres: about the sense and spirit of Gothic architecture . Books on Demand, 2003 ( ).
  3. Toman, Rolf (ed.): The art of the Gothic. Architecture - sculpture - painting . Cologne 1998, p. 301
  4. ^ Sauerländer, Willibald in: Funkkolleg Kunst , Studienbegleitbrief 1, 1984, p. 155
  5. ^ Sauerländer, Willibald in: Funkkolleg Kunst , Studienbegleitbrief 1, 1984, p. 139
  6. Quoted in: Toman, Rolf (Ed.): Die Kunst der Gotik. Architecture - sculpture - painting . Cologne 1998, p. 302
  7. Architectural theory of forms . Darmstadt 1980, p. 101
  8. Toman, Rolf (ed.): The art of the Gothic. Architecture - sculpture - painting. Cologne 1998, p. 54
  9. ^ Sauerländer, Willibald in: Funkkolleg Kunst, Studienbegleitbrief 1, 1984, p. 155.
  10. ^ Binding, Günther: Architectural Forms . Darmstadt 1980, p. 126 ff.
  11. a b Pevsner, Nikolaus: European architecture from the beginnings to the present . Munich 3rd edition 1997, p. 160.
  12. ^ Nussbaum, Norbert: German church architecture of the Gothic. Development and designs . Cologne 1985, p. 24.
  13. ^ Simson, Otto von: The Gothic cathedral . Darmstadt 1956 3rd edition 1979, p. 288.
  14. See Malcolm Miller: Chartres Cathedral . ISBN 0-85372-792-9 , p. 49.
  15. ^ Simson, Otto von: The Gothic cathedral . Darmstadt [1956] 3rd edition 1979, p. 283.
  16. A preliminary stage can be found in Ilbenstadt , s. Binding, Günther: What is Gothic? An analysis of the Gothic churches in France, England and Germany 1140-1350 . Darmstadt / Scientific Book Society 2000, p. 230.
  17. Detailed information on the organ
  18. Information on the bells (French)
  19. Video recording of the bell

Coordinates: 48 ° 26 ′ 50 ″  N , 1 ° 29 ′ 16 ″  E