Chartres Cathedral: A Mesmerizing Blend of Stained Glass and Medeival Architecture


Chartres Cathedral is a perfect masterpiece of Gothic architecture. It is located in Chartres town, 80 km from Paris, France. The cathedral is built entirely in Gothic style. One of the most prominent features of this complex building is that it has been preserved in the same styles and design in which it was first built in thirteenth century. The structure has earned a place in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Cathedral is also known by the name of “Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres”. It was build between late 12th and early 13th century period. The cathedral is located in Centre-Val-de-Loire and till now, is considered the best-preserved pieces of Gothic style.


This gigantic architecture was an important building in ancient times. It was the main commercial center where the traders used to sell and buy various commodities of daily use. Before the present cathedral, there were five more cathedrals but some of them got damaged in fire, the others were destroyed in wars.

Chartres Cathedral
Chartres Cathedral. Image Courtesy Wikipedia: By Olvr – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Architectural Features

The construction of the present structure was completed in a very short span of time and it maintained the consistency of the plan that was designed for it. According to the plan, the Chartres Cathedral has an ambulatory, three aisles, a transept and radiating chapels.

There are three facades in Cathedral of Chartres, with one nave and two transepts in west and north-south directions respectively. Flying buttresses are used to support the nave. The transepts have two large windows with structured portals. The north portal has depictions of Christ as the savior of humanity. Statuettes of Isaiah, Jeremiah, St. Peter, and Simeon have been erected to the right of the bay. The south portal is built on the lines of New Testament. Royal Portal has a number of marvelous and expressive statuettes of kings and queens. There is also a depiction of Last Judgment in central west portal.

Architecture at Chartres Cathedral
Architecture at Chartres Cathedral

Another prominent feature of the Chartres Cathedral is the use of stained windows which are intact till today. There are more than 170 such windows which make interior of the cathedral rich and colorful. The West Rose windows have scenes of Resurrection and Last Judgment. The North Rose has illustrations of Virgin Mary with child and angels. Glorification of Christ is the main depiction in South Rose.

Its stained-glass and painted decorations have survived the historical man-made disasters.

Chartres Cathedral Architecture
Chartres Cathedral Architecture. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia: By StuartLondon – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

A Site of Pilgrimage

The Cathedral has sacred importance for the Christian pilgrims. The religious significance of Chartres Cathedral is evident from the fact that Chartres was a pilgrimage place even before the Cathedral was constructed. According to a myth, a tunic of Virgin Mary called Sancta Camisa was gifted to the cathedral by Charlemagne. Later on the tunic was thought to be brought by Charles the Bald. Great Fairs used to take place in Cathedral in Chartres which attracted a number of pilgrims from all over the world.

The stained glasses too had religious significance .These windows were supposed to ward of the evil spirits and to make uneducated people aware of the sacredness of the place.

Travel to Cathedral

If one wants to have a tour to the Cathedral, he can travel by trains running between Paris and Chartres. The commutation time is more than 50 minutes. A walking map is available at the entrance. A museum is located behind the building that has illustrations related to Cathedral. One must opt for a day tour.

The other ways to reach the Cathedral is via rideshare or car. The rideshare may take about 1 hour and 49 minutes to reach here from Paris while driving via car can take you here within an hour.

Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass Windows

Nothing could be more mesmerizing than the lovely Chartres Cathedral stain glass windows that adorn this religious monument. These pieces of art are, in total, 176, and cover a distance of about 2600 square meters. These stained glass windows have been preserved neatly since the time they were erected and have not lost their sheen till day. Most of these were built in the earlier 12th century, especially between 1205 and 1240 C.E. (Common Era). A few of these were built in the late 12th century, some in the early fifteenth century, and a very few in the 20th century.

Life of Saint Eustace: Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass Window
Life of Saint Eustace Source: MOSSOT, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The need of these Chartres Cathedral stain glass windows arose to give more light to the interiors, which was an issue in the older churches as those were built in the unique Romanesque style and could not afford to have big windows and this style required these windows to support huge structures of the church. This changed in 13th century: the need for windows to hold up these structures was done away with and could now afford to be big and capable of passing through more light.

What do these Windows Depict?

The stained glass windows of the cathedral depict myriad illustrations and stories from the lives of saints, prophets, apostles, kings, queens, and other important people of that era. They depict stories from the Bible, moistly depicting the events in the life of Jesus Christ. Many of these also show depictions drawn from the lives of knights, nobles, and people belonging to different professions that were common in that era.

Stained Glass Windows Colors and Chemicals

The stained glasses used here are known for their lovely red, blue, green, and yellow colors most of which were prepared with the oxides of different metals on well-heated glass. For example , the cobalt blue sheen was prepared from cobalt oxide while red hue was developed from copper oxide. The yellow ones were prepared with Sulphur while green ones from the oxides of iron.

Stain Glass Window at Chartres Cathedral
Stain Glass Window at Chartres Cathedral

Kilns were mainly used to impart permanent colors to the glass. First the glass was cut into pieces of the desired shapes and sizes, and then the panels to be inserted into windows were the prepared by molding these colorful pieces. A single window could compose of tens of such panels. Apart from the biblical figures and stories from saints’ lives, the windows also depicted gospel messages, parables, narratives related to Christianity.

One of the Rose Windows at Chartres Cathedral
Rose Window: Source: Michelet-密是力 (talk) 10:53, 6 November 2016 (UTC), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A few of these windows need a special mention here. South Rose Window depicts stories from the Apocalypse with Jesus as the judge. North Rose Window illustrates stories from the Old Testament, and depicts Virgin Mary with child Jesus. West Rose Window is the biggest of them all and shows scenes from the Last Judgment with Jesus playing the role of a judge of humanity. The Incarnation Window shows you the stories like Coming of Magi, birth of Christ, and Massacre of the Innocents. Blue Virgin Window, as the name suggests, shows Virgin Mary with child Jesus in her lap. In this depiction, she is shown to be wearing a crown with blue light scattering from her head.

Cathedral Aerial View

Images showing Chartres Cathedral aerial view and architecture are shown here:

Medieval Gothic Architecture: Chartres Cathedral
Medieval Gothic Architecture
Chartres Cathedral Exterior View
Cathedral Exterior View
Chartres Cathedral Exterior
Cathedral Exterior
Chartres Cathedral Architecture
Cathedral Architecture

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