- Location: In Chartres, about 50 miles west of Paris
- Attraction Type: Cathedral
- Significance: UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Best Time to visit: June and September
- Visiting Hours: 8:30 am to 7:30 pm; For the climbing tower, last entrance is at 5:30 pm
- How to Reach: By road N10 from Paris
- Nearest Airport: Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Orly International Airport
Chartres Cathedral is not only among the greatest achievements in architecture but also one of the most impeccably preserved monuments in Europe. Its portal sculptures are still intact and the stained glass windows are resplendent both in their original forms. Chartres Cathedral near Paris is unique in terms of its originality and appears the same way as it was when built. The cathedral, with its outstanding architecture and inherent holiness, is not only a visual treat but also a place of inspiration for one and all. This revered Cathedral was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
As per tradition, Sancta Camisa, the tunic of the Blessed Virgin Mary is housed in Paris Chartres Cathedral since 876 AD. This relic was brought to this cathedral by Charlemagne who received it as a gift on his visit to Jerusalem. Believers and pilgrims from all corners of the globe come here to pay reverence to the Blessed Mother and honor her relic.
After a fire broke down the original Chartres Cathedral in 1020, a magnificent Romanesque basilica with a huge crypt was constructed to replace it. The new construction in the French Gothic style was an architectural masterpiece. In 1134 this cathedral survived a fire, but in 1194 it was severely damaged by lightning. The crypt, faí§ade, and spires were damaged and people believed that this lightning destroyed even Sancta Camisa. However, to their amazement when they discovered that the relic was unharmed they decided to build a more remarkable cathedral in place of the damaged one. On appeal from the bishop, grants and donations poured in and reconstruction started in the same year. Thereafter the main structure comprising of the crypt, western towers, and faí§ade was completed in 1220. Cathedral Chartres was eventually dedicated in 1260 in the presence of King Louis IX.
Visiting Chartres Cathedral From a distance the cathedral appears to be floating over wheat fields. As you go closer you would notice the Cathedral on a hill circumscribed by a small town. This Gothic cathedral in the shape of a Latin cross is characterized by three aisles, an ambulatory, five semi-circular chapels in the east, and a short transept. The structures that stand out in this symmetrical pattern are the two asymmetrical western towers. Among the two, the northern spire is elaborated with Gothic designs, while the southern smaller spire is constructed in a simple Romanesque pattern.
The transepts are featured by rose windows flanked by floral patterns. There are nine portals out of which three on the western side are from the original cathedral. The North portal represents the Old Testament, the South one depicts the New Testament, while the Royal Portal is dedicated to Christ and the Virgin Mary.
The Chartres Labyrinth and stained glass windows are other exceptional features of Chartres Cathedral in France. The North Rose, South Rose, West Rose, and Blue Virgin Windows are inexplicably beautiful.
Staying and Dining in Chartres
While in Chartres you might put up in Grand Monarque, Hotel Chatelet, Hotel Ibis, Jehan de Beauce, or Boeuf Couronne. Chartres restaurants cater to all your culinary needs. La Napolitaine specializes in Italian cuisine, while Saveurs et Plaisirs is renowned for its kebabs. In Le Sully the fish recipes are delicious, and in Bistrot de la Cathedrale you would love their ‘brasserie’ preparations.