As part of a series specially devoted to French sites recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO, we invite you to discover one by one the exceptional French destinations, preserved as heritage of humanity. We continue this series with one of the first sites recognized in 1979, the Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral.
Situated in the heart of the historic district from Chartres to Eure-et-Loire, Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral is one of the most representative French monuments of Gothic architecture. It would also be the best preserved Gothic cathedral in France. Its vast nave in the purest ogival style, its carved porches from the middle of the XNUMXth century, as well as the colored stained glass windows from the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, make this cathedral an exceptional masterpiece.
The majestic building is a landmark in the history of medieval architecture. He was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for three reasons. Having been built quite quickly, the cathedral is characterized by the unity of its architecture and its decor. This makes her a symbol, but also an example of Gothic architecture. The cathedral was also a source of inspiration for the builders of churches in France, and even in Europe.
The history of Chartres Cathedral
Since the XNUMXth century, no less than five religious buildings have been erected on the site of the current cathedral. Aventine Cathedral, destroyed in 350 by the Visigoths. A second sanctuary destroyed in 858 by the Danish Vikings. Then the Saint-Lubin chapel, set on fire in the 30th century… In the 1194th century, it was lightning that also caused a destructive fire. Bishop Fulbert will then build a Romanesque-style building. The current Cathedral will finally be built at the beginning of the XNUMXth century in less than XNUMX years. It will be built on the ruins of this Romanesque cathedral, also destroyed in a fire in XNUMX.
A monumental structure with multiple ornaments
At a height of 51 meters, this cathedral has the shape of a Latin cross with a basilica nave, and has five rib-vaulted bays. The 650 m2 of the choir makes it the largest in France. 3500 statues and nine sculpted portals adorn the building. The diameter of the large rose window is larger than those of the transept of Notre-Dame de Paris. The 2600 m2 of stained-glass windows in the cathedral are considered to be one of the most complete and best-preserved sets of medieval times. 9000 biblical and historical figures are represented in the cathedral.
Chartres cathedral today
Nowadays, Notre-Dame de Chartres cathedral is still considered a great place of pilgrimage. Sacred music concerts, masses and celebrations are organized there very regularly. Visitors can also benefit from the tour of the towers and thus admire the magnificent view which dominates Chartres and the Beauce plain. Administered by the Center des monuments nationaux and the city of Chartres, the various players are mobilizing to preserve the site. The next challenge is now to ensure the harmony of the building in the landscape, at a time when the pressure of urban development is increasing.