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Our Lady of Chartres

I will get a few things that went wrong out of the way first:

1) It was raining, and when it wasn't raining, it was very cloudy.
2) I missed my first train.
3) There were no tours running that day becuase someone was married in the Cathedral earlier in the morning.
4) The famous labrynth was covered in chairs, likely for the same reason.

There, the boring stuff is out of the way.

Chatres was mind-blowing in ways that Notre Dame just... wasn't. Part of it is, of course, I've been to Notre Dame before. I may not have remembered all of it, but I did have that constant feeling of recognizition there. In Chatres, I had none of that.

My understanding is Chatres was the fastest built of the Chathedrals, and you can actually see the way the artistic style developed as it was built. Where the front part of the cathedral shows the painfully solid and unlifelike figures in straight up and down poses, the sides show the changes up to lifelike and realistic figures in obvious reaction to the world around them. It's an amazing change, and one that is almost unbelievable.

The two main towers also show the obvious differences, as each is done in a different style.

Chartres was... well, like the rest of my trip, it was wonderful. I didn't see much of Chatres (the town, that is), but it had a feeling like a very friendly village. The Cathedral is an easy walk from the train station, and the train trip itself is wonderful and relaxing. I really enjoyed the chance to look at the French countryside (so disturbingly like the Canadian countryside), and take the quiet opportunity to write a few postcards.

Walking up to the Cathedral that I'd read about a few times was amazing. I wish I could put into words what it was like to have to look up... and up... and up... to see this beautiful building. I spent the first 40 minutes or so I was there just walking around the outside, and I think I would have counted the cost of the trip a small one even if I wasn't able to see the inside.

But that would have been a shame.

As usual, I have no pictures of the inside, as it is a working Cathedral. It wasn't the same awe inspiring sense that Notre Dame gave me. It was quite different. The point of the building seemed to be making one feel small in the presence of God. When you first walk into it, you get this sense of overwhelming distance between yourself and the holiest of holies.

The rest of it, with its huge stained glass windows and the way the walls and ceilings just overwhelm you has the same effect. The point is to feel small and insignifigant, and it succeeds admirably at this.

I was able to get some small hint of the labrynth, even covered with chairs as it was. I believe (but could be wrong) that it is the only labrynth to survive in a church from that time period. It's carved into the floor, and one is supposed to walk it while contemplating the nature of God, I would assume. I was actually looking forward to doing thing. Although I'm not a religious person (I don't believe in God), I am a thoughtful person, and the idea of contemplating God and religion and faith in that setting was something I wanted.

But, life goes on, and I will be there another day. Of this I am certain.

The train back was quiet, and I slept the whole way to Paris. I had a few more things I wanted to do, at least on this trip, and I could already feel the minutes ticking away before I would have to leave.

{The rest of the pictures are here on my flickr account.}


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Thanks for leaving a note on my blog. Would love you to listen to the show on Sunday and even participate by sending an email or even blogging about it. I look forward to reading your blog in more detail

I too do not believe in god but I like the feeling I get in great churches. There is a stunning example in
the Basilica of St Apollinaris in Classe, Ravenna. Consecrated in 549AD, can you imagine? Beautiful blue striated marble columns. And the cathedral in Beauvais is amazing too. And the Frari in Venice, especially if you can get into one of the side chapels to see the Bellini triptych.

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