Just when you think you can’t bother to visit another church, the opportunity comes up to visit the Chartres Cathedral and the charming town of Chartres with AWG, and I say, “Why not? When in France…”
I personally love visiting Gothic churches. Their size and imposing form built over hundreds of years way before modern technology always dazzles me. Chartres Cathedral isn’t the largest but is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture and it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Having been spared during the Revolution, it also survived World War II intact thanks to an American soldier who volunteered to go behind enemy lines to verify that it wasn’t in fact occupied by German forces thus saving it from bombardment. Today we have the beautifully well preserved 12th and 13th century stained glass windows to marvel at and other visual treasures the cathedral has to offer.
In the centre is a labyrinth which I would have not even noticed hadn’t our group leader pointed it out. People enter the labyrinth in mediation and prayer to find the centre and continue reflecting on their way out.
The cathedral is currently undergoing restoration which means part of the nave is under scaffolding. But of the areas that have been completed, the different is astonishing. I can only imagine how beautiful, light and airy it will look when it’s completely. I never understood why Gothic churches were described as light and airy because they were usually so dark and heavy. But seeing the restoration work and getting a glimpse of what it would have looked like back then really made me understand this description.
The cathedral is beautiful inside and out. A short walk around it reveals many hidden facets, gardens and a labyrinth.
After lunch with the ladies, we went our separate ways to explore, shop, get a coffee. Camera in hand, I went exploring the town, getting lost in the cobbled streets and watching shop owners re-open after the two-hour lunch break.
Chartres is a great little day trip from Paris, only 1.5hr direct train ride. Even the drizzle and overcast skies didn’t put a damper on a lovely visit to Chartres.