Welcome to the Medieval Ages….well sort of. Shared by medieval historian Veronica Domagalski, I learned more in a half day about medieval cathedrals, saints and stained glass than I ever thought I would in a lifetime.
I had the pleasure of this historical account of the times during a recent “spiritual” trip to Normandy in France, where Chartres was one of the stops. For those who are not familiar with Chartres and its magestic cathedral with 4,000 sculpted statues and 5,000 figures in 2,600 square meters of stained glass from the 12th and 13th centuries, its a place of deep history and spiritual amazement.
From April to October, the city of Chartres transforms at night with The Festival of Lights, a creative project that transforms how the cathedral looks at night.
Before and during this cathedral transformation, I learn that they had 32 banks in the Middle Ages and each town had its own money. I also learn a number of fascinating facts from my guide that is astonishing even to the most astute historian.
Did You Know?
- There are 200 Mary’s on the windows and frescoes?
- The Wings date back to 1194?
- That, in the Middle Ages, the exterior and interior were both colored and the statues were painted in the same colors as the stained glass?
- The cathedral touts 2,500 square meters of windows
- That Chartres has the oldest windows in the world — 1140-1145
- 20k people made the pilgrimage in the 12th century which was a 3 day trip from Paris?
- In the 12th century, they used cobalt to make the stained glass blue but in the next century it was too expensive to use hence the reason for the change in blue tones?
- That you read windows and their colors from right to left and the bottom to the top?
- That the use of green for the wings was the symbol of hope?
- The Statue of Mary was done in 18th century baroque style and is made of 10 tons of marble?
- It was the first cathedral built that was dedicated to Virgin Mary in the 4th century?
- That the Crypt underground dates from 1024, the longest crypt in the world with the largest one being St. Peter in Rome?
The stats are important since they help you to understand the deep history of Chartres, as well as what was trending from an art and cultural perspective in the 16th century. Much of this history is played out in the light…..
For example, they use roughly 30 animations with varied types that are displayed on the cathedral and surrounding historical buildings throughout the city. There are roughly 29 monuments and major attractions which are highlighted and put to music, among them the Cathedral of course (above), the media library, the theater, the Fine Arts Museum, the historical districts, the banks of the Eure, the Etroit Degre streets, the Saint-Pierre and Saint-Aignan churches, the Marceau and more.
Every night, those 29 monuments come alive through shimmering light, taking on a new dimension in the process. Colored lights illuminate the structures, all curated to the rhythm of music. It’s an incredibly memorable experience and not to be missed if you’re heading to Chartres.
Remember that it only runs until October, so check when it closes before you book. Now…join us on an ever so artistic visual journey!!
Below are a couple of videos I shot on the ground. Enjoy!
Be sure to check out our Brittany/Normandy food & wine section (and posts), as well as our general section on Brittany/Normandy. And, of course for the passionate about all things France, we have quite a bit of content in our France section as well as Paris.
Note: My trip was hosted by the French Tourism Board, however all opinions expressed are entirely my own.