Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres (Part 1) Part 1: Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres, c.1145 and 1194-c.1220 This video (1 of 3), focuses on the cathedral's pre-Gothic history, its sacred relic, and the westwerk's royal portal and jamb figures Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker For more: http://smarthistory.org/Gothic.html
Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres (Part 1)
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- We're in the town of Chartres
- looking at Notre Dame de Chartres
- which is one of the great medieval cathedrals, but it's got a complicated history.
- This site was a sacred space. According to legend there was a druidic temple here.
- We don't know if it's true of course, but we do know is that there probably was a Roman temple here.
- And ultimately it was converted into a Christian space maybe third century.
- And at that point we actually have some historical record.
- And by the time we get to around 1000 A.D. we know that there was a substantial church.
- A church that was always associated with the Virgin Mary, and in the ninth century,
- the church received a special gift by way of Constantinople, a relic of the tunic of the Virgin Mary.
- So a relic is an object that is believed to have special spiritual power.
- It could be a part of a saint, or it could be a piece of clothing or something in some very direct way related to a spiritual figure.
- So for instance, the crown of thorns that Christ wore, or in this case, the tunic that is believed
- Mary wore when she gave birth to Christ.
- Relics were critically important, because they were believed to actually have a kind of spiritual power
- that could benefit those who paid reverence to it.
- And what this meant was that people would travel enormous distances to go and pay homage
- to these relics often bringing gifts and offerings.
- Sometimes these would be jewels. Sometimes it would be money, donations.
- And the sites of important relics became really quite wealthy.
- And there were these pilgrimage routes, and for the first time Europe is stable enough politically
- so that it was actually relatively safe to travel.
- Now we have no idea whether or not this in fact the tunic that Mary wore.
- What's important is that it was believed to be that.
- And therefore had very special saving and protective powers.
- But something terrible happened.
- The great Romanesque church that housed the tunic,
- that pilgrims came to from far and wide,
- burned to the ground.
- In 1194.
- And the shroud was lost.
- Well, they thought the shroud was lost.
- And it's a terrible moment, because without the shroud,
- the town lost its protection.
- The people felt abandoned by Mary.
- But lo and behold, three days later, the tunic was discovered unharmed.
- In the crypt below the church. It was seen as a miracle.
- Instead of the Virgin Mary having forsaken the town,
- instead of this being evidence of her anger,
- now it was clear that the Virgin simply wanted to get the old church out of the way
- so that in 1194 the town of Chartes could raise a church that was equal to her importance in its splendor.
- The architect of Chartes whose name we don't know, built the church on the foundations
- of what was left of the Romanesque church that had been here.
- But by this time, architecture in the West had changed.
- And we had moved from a Romanesque style to a Gothic style.
- And this church is one of the most pre-eminent examples, and probably the most unified example,
- of the Gothic in France.
- We're talking about a new focus on opening up the walls of the church
- and a new focus on geometry.
- God created the world according to measure.
- And the church could mirror the measure, the numbers with which God had created the universe.
- And so by being in that space, created with that measure, we would feel closer to God.
- We would have an approximation of the divine realm.
- So what is sometime referred to as Chartes I, the westwork, the part that survived the fire of 1194,
- that was built earlier, that part feels so much more massive.
- The architect is not yet shedding the fears that went along with the Romanesque
- where the walls had to be solid, had to be massive.
- Well, stone roofs weigh a lot.
- They sure do.
- And so you can see that the building is pierced only with the smallest windows.
- The facade is divided into threes in two directions.
- A reference to the Trinity, but I think more importantly organized according to the Golden Ratio.
- And a notion of creating a sense of perfect proportion.
- Let's walk a little closer.
- Let's take a look at the jamb figures on the royal portal.
- [hammers ringing]
- You can actually hear some of the masons working, doing some repairs on the church.
- The jamb figures are the figures on either side of the doorway.
- They're very columnar, each attached to columns.
- Probably the kings and queens of the Old Testament.
- They're really Gothic.
- They're not people like we are.
- They're clearly representations of spiritual beings.
- You can tell that, because as you said they're incredibly long.
- Virtually architectural columns except they support nothing.
- They don't really seem to have a sense of weight.
- If you look down at their feet, they sort of dangle down a little bit.
- They don't really have bodies.
- They have drapery with folds indicated by lines carved into the stone
- and in some cases indicating a knee or a hip.
- But there is really no sense of a monumental, three-dimensional body under that drapery.
- I'm taken by the pure aesthetic beauty of these figures to represent these figures as gatekeepers,
- somebody that can hasten our entry into the spiritual realm.
- Precisely. As we walk in, the figures tower above us.
- They look paternal, kindly, and they look down at us but also past us.
- So they seem to occupy both the heavenly realm and the physical realm at the same time
- and provide a kind of transition into the spiritual realm inside the church.
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