Historical Romance

Historical Romance with an Inspirational Touch

Monday, July 12, 2010

Road Trip in France

Today, more time will be spent on the bus than not. But that is okay because we are going to visit some awesome places.

First stop, Chartres. This is my favorite cathedral. My sister insists I will change my mind once I set foot in Sainte Chappelle. I haven't been able to get inside yet and crossing fingers for next time.

Our Lady of Chartres is known for its stained glass windows which are amazing and beautiful. I am so glad they survived the Revolution and two world wars. However, the church wasn't so lucky in the beginning. The original church was built in the third or fourth and burnt in 743. The second was burnt in 858 by Danish pirates. And the third, burned on 1020. In 1134 a fire burnt the town and damaged the front of the church. Eventually two towers were complete in 1144. The Royal Portabl was built in the middle of the 12th century. But, on July 10, 1194, the church burned again. A new church was begun that year and completed in 1220. Additions were added in 1326, 1417, 1513, 1753. Another fire touched the church in 1836. While the roof and two belfreys were burnt, the rest of the church was unharmed.

Chartres also a famous labryinths. I wish I had a picture of it but none of mine came out.

This labyrinth was meant to be walked but is reported to be infrequently used today. In the past it could be walked as a pilgrimage and/or for repentance. As a pilgrimage it was a questing, searching journey with the hope of becoming closer to God. When used for repentance the pilgrims would walk on their knees. Sometimes this eleven-circuit labyrinth would serve as a substitute for an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem and as a result came to be called the "Chemin de Jerusalem" or Road of Jerusalem.

In walking the Chartres style labyrinth the walker meanders through each of the four quadrants several times before reaching the goal. An expectancy is created as to when the center will be reached. At the center is a rosette design which has a rich symbolic value including that of enlightenment. The four arms of the cross are readily visible and provide significant Christian symbolism.

The brass center was melted down during the French Revolution for metal.

In addition to the labrynth, Chartres is also believed to have in it its possession the tunic worn by the Virgin Mary, the Sancta Camisa. It was supposedly given to Chartres by Chareemagne who received it as a gift during a crusad in Jerusalem. However, other source report that it was a gift from Charles the Bald and the fabric is from Syria and dates back to the first century. Regardless, many choose to believe it was worn by Mary. It remains in a golden cask and is on desplay.

I did hear one story that at least one priest (my mind is telling me three for some reason, and I wish I could remember exactly) tried to save the tunic when the church caught on fire. They were caught in the crypt below and remained there as the church burned about them. The town thought for sure the tunic and the priests were lost. But, once the flames were doused and the building cooled, the priests emerged unharmed carrying the tunic. It does make one wonder. . .

Back on the bus and we head for our next destination. Truthfully, I can't remember which place we went to first, but my next post will be visiting Chambord.


  1. What an interesting story! I can't imagine a place with so much history. I'm used to America. This makes me want to take a trip to the NE though, just to see some older stuff.

  2. Great story to remember and retell. :O)

  3. Sounds like you're having a wonderful trip. It's almost as much fun catching the stories as seeing the places isn't it?

  4. fascinating history, buildings are so old in Europe compared to our relatively new country.

  5. I've been to both Chartres and Sainte Chapelle, and I have to agree with your sister, although, part of what made Sainte Chapelle so amazing was that I didn't know what I was about to step into when I got there...

  6. Jessica, one of the reasons I think I love Chartres is because of the history.

    Thanks, Diane. I wonder how much is true. I would like to believe all of it is.

    Sheila, it was a wonderful trip. Ya, the stories to make a difference. Without the history and stories, they are just pretty old buildings.

    Lin, even though I haven't seen a lot of this country, and am pretty sure we have nothing that can begin to compare. The architecture really amazes me when I find out how old some buildings really are and wonder how they could possible build that. I know there were ways, obviously, but it is beyond my comprehension.

    Emily, I am hoping and crossing my fingers I get to see the inside of Sainte Chapelle next time. I reall would love to see it and have a comparison, especially now that you have sided with my sister - lol.

  7. I've never been to Chartres, so it was lovely to hear about your visit. I think Chartres was involved in one of Kate Mosses stories. I've also not seen a Labrynth in Europe, but there is one in San Fransisco I've visted twice and have found deeply moving. Thanks