Contact Eurfirst. About the Author Main Page Main Page Main Page Main Page Saving your Memories Choosing a Camera for Travel Camping Gear Luggage Get a Taste of Europe at Home Eating & Dieting in Europe Personal Protection Maps & Guide Books Clothing & Cosmetics Golf in Europe Traveling with a Tour Group Train Travel Campgrounds in Europe Renting or Leasing an Automobile Airlines Is It Safe to Travel If You only Speak English Money & Credit Cards Traveling with Children Getting Travel Documents Ways to Travel How Long to Go When to go

Eurfirst Trip to Chartres

Revised March 23, 2006

Not far from Paris is the city of Chartres, famed for its beautiful gothic cathedral that was built in the 12th and 13th Centuries. Many consider the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres the most dramatic gothic cathedral in the world. Many others visit Chartres to pray on its labyrinth. We were drawn to Chartres for the 176 beautiful stained glassed windows, many of which are filled with pieces of "Chartres blue" glass blown almost a millenium ago.

If you are in Paris, you can get to Chartres by train from the Gare Montparnasse train station taking a train heading west in the direction of Chartres. Expect the trip to cost about $25. We drove from Mount St. Michel to Chartres and then continued on to Paris the next day. It is also convenient to detour to Chartres on a trip to the Loire Valley or to the Grand Prix in Le Mans.

The ancient cathedral is conveniently located in the center of town, a 10-minute walk from the train station. For drivers, signs to "Centre Ville" will get you to the cathedral. When you spot the tall spires, start looking for a place to park, especially if you are arriving midday.

We arrived not long before closing, hours after tour busses had scooted their passengers back to Paris. In the dimming light of sunset, the glass and carvings were awe-inspiring. Direct beams of sunlight glimmered off the edges of the glass. We could only wonder why such a glorious tribute by man to his God could not have earned the people of this area eternal peace.

Stained Glass of Chartres
Veil of Virgin Mary at Chartres

The cathedral was built to honor the Virgin Mary and the cathedral has veil of the Virgin Mother on display, which was donated to the church in 876 by Charles the Bald. Repeatedly on the stained glass windows, the significance of the Virgin Mary is noted, and thousands of Christians traveled to Chartres to honor the mother of Jesus Christ.

Originally, the site of the cathedral was a place where Druids worshipped. But as Christianity spread throughout Europe, a church was built on the site. Ultimately, the decision was made to build a dramatic cathedral in the location.

The cathedral has twice been destroyed by major fires. Part of the church survived the second fire and Richard the Lion-Hearted joined the Christians throughout Europe who funded its reconstruction.

Inside beautiful carved reliefs tell the story of Jesus's life.

Relief Carving at Chartres
Chartres Pulpit

In every direction you see magnificent craftsmenship done by men with very simple tools. We were in awe as we thought about the work it took to make the pieces of glass for the windows and then we would turn an see another carving that was just as wondrous.

Soon you become aware that an incomprehensible amount of labor went into the construction of this tribute to God. You also become aware of the architectural design that not only pulls your eyes toward heaven but dwarfs you in relation to this house of God. And as you realize that hundreds of the craftsmen never saw the fruits of their labor, the wonder just expands.

We were also amazed to realize that this incredible tribute to faith has also survived many conflicts. Some of the windows are no longer opulent designs in glass but are simply clear, a reminder of the damage done in World War II.

contiinued below

During the Revolution, many French intellectuals recognized that the Church had sided with the throne against the interest of the citizens. When they deposed the King, the new leaders next turned their energy toward the Church, and many of the country's religious buildings were destroyed. Chartres was scheduled for demolition but during the brief window between and Kind Louis XVI and Napoleon, there were more pressing issues that were addressed and Chartres survived the revolution. But the history of the Revolution is clear from the headless statues that adorn the outside of the cathedral.

For an interesting virtual tour of Chartres, go to San Jose State University's Chartres Cathedral Tour.

Beheaded Statues at Chartres