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The illuminated Our Lady of Chartres cathedral, France (kovalenkovpetr / Adobe Stock)

The Allure Of Chartres Cathedral, An Aura Of Pagan Mysticism


Researchers say the celebrated Chartres Cathedral encodes lost information on the Knights Templar, the Ark of the Covenant, sacred geometry, alchemy and numerology. Innumerable books and articles have been written about this medieval cathedral. Fifty miles south-east of Paris, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres still stands as one of the most venerated and studied medieval cathedrals of Europe. University libraries have stacks of shelves filled with scholarly tomes studying every detail of its construction, while New Age bookstores stock volumes on its many mysteries.

Vintage engraving of Chartres Cathedral ( Morphart / Adobe Stock)

Logistics Of Chartres Cathedral

Fortunately for historians this architectural masterpiece has survived almost intact for over nine centuries. Since it is not located in a major or industrial city, the church has escaped serious defacement, revolutions, WW II bombs and misguided restorers. The Gothic cathedral is especially important because it retains much of its medieval structure, its 12th-century west façade, its interior sculpture and 150 of its precious stained-glass windows.

Stained-glass windows of Chartres Cathedral ( glacex / Adobe Stock)

This sacred area was the site of numerous churches dating to the fourth century. The cathedral suffered four major fires in 920, 1020, 1134, and 1194 but the great church was rebuilt every time. The major fire of 1194 was caused by a lightning strike and burned most of the city, as well as the cathedral. Thankfully the west façade was saved and remains in place today. The present Gothic cathedral was built atop the ancient crypt that was begun in 1020 during the bishopric of the renowned scholar, St Fulbert of Chartres. Immediately after the debris of the fire of 1194 was cleaned up, construction of the present building was initiated. Miraculously the huge cathedral was mostly completed by 1220.

The 1836 fire of Chartres Cathedral by François-Alexandre Pernot (1837) (Le Passant / CC BY-SA 4.0)

The 1836 fire of Chartres Cathedral by François-Alexandre Pernot (1837) (Le Passant / CC BY-SA 4.0)

One of the greatest mysteries of Chartres is how all the workers, masons, carpenters, sculptors, roofers, bell-makers, glass-makers, and stained-glass designers required to complete this enormous project, were assembled in such a short time. The amount of stone for the walls, towers and floor was massive and the wood needed to support the roof alone would have required an entire forest, not to mention the choir, lecterns and chairs. Also, the Chartrian master scholars and theologians had to carefully determine the enormous sculptural program. Almost every part of the cathedral is adorned with sculpture.


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Dr Marion Dolan received her PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Medieval manuscripts, minoring in Medieval architecture and history of astronomy. She is the author of several books including The Monk and the Antichrist: A Novel of Passion in the Middle Ages

Top Image: The illuminated Our Lady of Chartres cathedral, France (kovalenkovpetr / Adobe Stock)

By: Dr Marion Dolan



Dr Marion Dolan is retired from the University of Pittsburgh where she was an adjunct professor in the history of art and architecture and lectured for the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University for many years. She published a... Read More
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