chapter  17
18 Pages

The Cathedral of Chartres

WithWhitney S. Stoddard

On the nights of June 10 and 11, 1194, a huge conflagration consumed much of the town of Chartres, including the Episcopal Palace and the eleventh-century Cathedral of Notre-Dame. The late twelfth-century man made no such distinction between religious and worldly concerns, and the creative explosion that built Chartres Cathedral took its energies from all aspects of Medieval life. In retrospect, several factors can be perceived clearly. First, Chartres is the center of the cult of the Virgin Mary. According to legend, a pagan sanctuary existed there before the birth of the Virgin. This first church of Gaul is often connected with a sacred spring of pagan times. The religious energy which began the construction of the new Gothic Chartres is thus clearly revealed; yet the means by which the rebuilding was accomplished with such rapidity remain to be discussed.