I finally uploaded pictures from the last month I spent in France and realized I forgot to post pics from my day trip to Chartres!
Chartres is a city about an hour south of Paris by train and famous for its cathedral and the beautiful blue color of the cathedral's stained glass. The cathedral is well worth the trip, the sculptures and stained glass are fantastic. The town is cute but not one of the cutest I've seen.
The cathedral is a place of pilgrimage because it houses the Santa Camisa, a tunic that belonged to Mary. Such an important relic needed an equally important cathedral; the best artisans came to Chartres to sculpt and create the stained glass. The cathedral can be seen from distant fields, rising above the surrounding landscape to guide pilgrims. The towers are different styles because one of them burned down (along with a good part of the city and half the cathedral) and was rebuilt in the new gothic style.
I can't even tell you how blown away I was by the sculpture on the cathedral. Back in the Middle Ages most people couldn't read, and they certainly couldn't read Latin (this was before the Bible had been translated into the vernacular). The doorways of the cathedrals contained fantastic sculptures meant to be like giant picture Bibles for the people to "read" and the stained glass inside was for the same purpose. Everything in the house of God had to be beautiful and grand to glorify the Creator. I always try to imagine what it must have felt like back then to be a poor peasant who lived a life colored in mud and hard work in the fields with no extra money or time to buy or make beautiful things, and then to come to a cathedral and be confronted by the beauty of the sculptures and stained glass, how awe inspiring that would be.
Picture of one of the portals on the west facade (the main entrance of a cathedral is always on the west side. Maybe so that the altar points east to Jerusalem? hahaha). I think this is Christ in Majesty, and the animals around him represent the four apostles.
Close-up of one of the tympanum sculptures, I think this represents Mary enthroned with the baby Jesus and the death of Mary.
Saints on either side of the door. The distorted, elongated style is typical of pre-renaissance sculpture, but notice that they fit the shape of the door jamb quite nicely.
More saints, love the sculpture on the base of the columns
The detailing on the columns above the heads of the saints is unbelievable.
How wonderful is this column??!!
Even the flying buttresses had statues in them! I like the hunchback-like guy in the middle, makes me think of Quasimodo.
This is the most famous example of the Chartres blue color in stained glass, Mary holding the baby Jesus. Unfortunately my photos didn't turn out that well (I'm a terrible photographer, if you guys haven't realized that by now), so if you want a better image go google it.
There are other examples of Chartres blue throughout the cathedral. Here is one of the rose windows with either saints or kings in the windows below.
This is the chapel where the Sancta Camisa is kept.
These guys were in a garden behind the cathedral, some kind of modern art exhibit. Wouldn't surprise me if it were Jeff Koons (is his stuff still stinking up Versailles?).
Eglise St Aignan is a delightful, small church located on a side street.
It's interesting because the interior is completely painted, which is actually how all churches used to be back in the Middle Ages, and if I'm not mistaken it was during the Victorian era and their fascination with the Gothic style that the interior paintings were either scraped off or painted over. The outsides of the churches were also painted. Over the years most of this color would have peeled off anyway. (side note: just spent lots of time looking through various books and websites for the definitive answer to why churches are no longer painted on the inside and can't find it. Done looking. If you have other info, do share)
And some pictures of the town: