Visiting Chartres Cathedral was a priority en route to Normandy from Paris. My first glimpse of it, also known as Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, as I hiked up the steep spine of tiny Chartres, was thrilling.
Cathedral of Nôtre Dame de Chartres
Pilgrims have been coming here since the 12th century to view an actual silk relic of the Virgin Mary’s veil and walk the labyrinth in the long, deep nave—the widest in France— in the interior of this beautiful monument to God.
It all started after a fire destroyed the old church in 1195 when the veil was feared lost. But miraculously, the veil was found after the fire and the village saw it as a sign from Mary to build a new church.
The original cathedral was mostly constructed during the late 12th century…the last of five cathedrals constructed on the site since the fourth(!) century.
Steve and I were pretty exhausted on our one and only night in Chartres, having flown across the pond, landed in Paris, and driven two hours to Chartres. We had just a single night visiting Chartres and its famous cathedral before heading north to Normandy.
Where to Stay in Chartres
This sweet and affordable little apartment is not far from the cathedral in the historic heart of the village near quaint boutiques and restaurants.
It’s just a 10 minute walk to the cathedral from Jean-Louis’ place past quaint French boutiques, pastry shops, and flower sellers…
Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass
Chartres is particularly noted for its stunning “Chartres blue” stained glass windows. This blue is vivid, with a trace of red to really make them pop.
Most of these 176 windows date from the 12th century. The glass is dense, making the interior of the cathedral dark, but richly hued. The structure of the cathedral was built to accommodate some exceptionally large windows, with external buttresses to keep them in place.
See Chartres en Lumière
Light shows are big in Europe these days and I can see why. There’s something about the play of modern colored light that illuminates intricate ancient architecture under a starry night. Chartres en Lumière starts only after it’s fully dark…which meant propping our jet lagged eyes open until close to 11 pm on a summer night in June. But it was worth it!
Begin your viewing of the Chartres light show at the cathedral. The show, which is accompanied by music, is free and takes place nightly between April and October and lasts about one hour.
But don’t stop there…if you’re not as jet-lagged as we were, walk the light’s path through the town. Some monuments are spotlighted by full color images while others exhibit small historic black and white photos. In any case, Chartres en Lumière is a fabulous way to walk this adorable cobblestoned French village.
I’ll not soon forget Chartres…..
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