MYSTERIES OF CHARTRES 10/15/2011
In the year 1194 in the tiny rural village of Chartres, an architect laid out plans for a cathedral whose design was different from anything ever conceived. In this unlikely, isolated area surrounded by wheat fields so vast they define the horizon, a master builder and hundreds of stone masons and craftsmen gathered to construct the soaring ribbed vault and flying buttresses of what would become the finest monument to Gothic architecture ever built. The construction would take only 26 years, something architects and engineers say would be impossible today.
Over the next hundred years more than 80 cathedrals and nearly a thousand Gothic churches would be erected across Europe, many of them in France. We know the names of the architects who designed them and the master builders who supervised their construction. For many we know the names of quarrymen, stone cutters, sculptors, carpenters and stained-glass artists.
But in the case of Chartres, which houses the world’s largest collection of medieval stained glass and more than four thousand exterior sculptures, we know not a single name connected with the design, construction or sacred art. And this is only one of many mysteries.
Where, for instance, did the money and manpower come from to construct such a massive edifice in such a short time in such an out-of-the-way place? Why, in a Roman Catholic cathedral in what was a Roman Catholic country, were there over a hundred depictions of a woman and child, some markedly pagan in nature, but no representation anywhere of a crucified Christ? Why are there so many references to the zodiac in a Christian cathedral? We'll explore these and other topics in the months leading up to the September 2012 workshop.