At 5:00pm on the first day of a Rick Steves the tour group meets for the first time. Our group gathered in the lobby (dinning room area) of our hotel. Arnaud did a tour introduction followed by each of us introducing ourselves. Of course, Arnaud met the challenge of identifying each of us by our first name (well almost...all but one!). We finished up the meeting by picking our 'buddies'.
The intro meeting was followed up by a short walk (to introduce the city center) leading to our first dinner together (Le Bistrot de la Cathedrale...see below).
The itineraries above are the first two of our tour. Each days activities are outlined on the itinerary. Arnaud takes great pride in his itineraries and rightfully so...clearly they are the nicest we've seen on all of our RS tours.
Chartres is a small city in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France, approximately an hour south-west of Paris by train. Population is 42,000 although that rises to 100,000 when the surrounding towns are taken into consideration. The main attraction for most visitors to Chartres is the 12th century cathedral, considered by many art historians to be the finest surviving example from the High Gothic period. In the last couple of years a new mayor has overseen the modernization of the center of the town. There has provoked both positive and negative reactions from the "Chartrains", but there is no doubt that the town is undergoing a certain renewal.
The city suffered heavy damage by bombing in the course of World War II, but the Cathedral of Chartres was spared by an American Army officer who challenged the order to destroy it.
Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. questioned the strategy of destroying the cathedral and volunteered to go behind enemy lines to find out whether the German Army was occupying the cathedral and using it as an observation post. With a single enlisted soldier to assist, Col. Griffith proceeded to the cathedral and confirmed the Germans were not using it. After he returned from his reconnaissance, he reported that the cathedral was clear of enemy troops. The order to destroy the cathedral was withdrawn and the Allies later liberated the area. Col. Griffith was killed in action on 16 August 1944 in the town of Leves, near Chartres.
Former Post Office
WWII Deportations Info
Memorial to A Jean Moulin
Just a sign
Memorial to Pasteur
Church of Saint Foy
After checking into the hotel and putting our stuff in the room we took a short around the town. At the end of the block you can see the Cathedral (which frankly is visible wherever we went). But in the same area we saw a number of interesting things.
The second picture is a 'former post office'. What a beautiful building. Not like post offices in the US.
The next three pictures are signs which is totally in French. At the time I took this picture, I assumed that I was looking at information concerning the exportation of Jews (and other undesirables) from France during WWII. We couldn't be more wrong. The signs tell about the exportation of French CITIZENS (by the French Vichy government) for forced labor/enslavement in Germany. Yup, the French government (who signed an armistice with Nazi Germany during WWII) willingly enslaved their own people to fill quotas demanded by Germany. Also interesting about this display? When we did our abbreviated info tour before dinner, we walked right by this park and our guide made NO MENTION of the display. It is obvious that the French are not very happy with this piece of their history. Understandable!
We did stop to see (and hear about) the A Jean Moulin memorial (resistance leader and magistrate of Chartres) who gave his life fighting the Germans. Very sad.
The next photo is just a sign. This is the first of a bunch of 'signs' pictures taken in France. They French love them...we saw them everywhere.
The second to the last picture is a memorial to Louis Pasteur. The Pasteur research hospital is at the other end of the street that dead-ends to this memorial.
The final picture is just a church. It is tucked back on a side street and looks cute just sitting there.
CHARTRES CATHEDRAL STAINED GLASS
Labors of the Months - December, Feasting
Signs of the Zodiac & Labors of the Months
Labors of the Months - January, Man of three faces
North Rose with Lancets
South Rose Window - The Glorification of Christ
South Rose Lancet Close-up - Luke
South Rose Lancet Close-up - Matthew
South Rose Lancet Close-up - Virgin and Child
From the Intro signs in front of the International Stained Glass Centre
The stained glass windows of the Chartres cathedral are forming the most complete ensemble of medieval windows in France still preserved in their original place. 176 rose windows and lancets - more than 2,500 square metres of glass - dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries for most of them, permit to discover an exceptional iconographic programme, elaborated by the canons and put into glass by highly-skilled masters of stained glass craft of the middle ages. Only a few windows were destroyed during the French Revolution (1789), the rest of all medieval stained glass windows is still intact and in place, such as the early 12th century Blue Virgin and the three lancets above the Royal Portal.
What we saw...
The stained glass windows above are a sample of what we saw. The North and South Rose windows are two of the most significant displays in the Cathedral. The Signs of the Zodiac is displayed with a couple of close-ups to give you a better sense of the beauty and intricate design the individual sections of the larger window.
Below that are three of the five lancets below the South Rose Window.
Keep in mind that these are just 6 of the 176 rose windows and lancets. You can easily spend days taking pictures of everything on display.
Wow what a collection!
One more thing...click on the More Pictures button below to see a lot more stained glass.
Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass West Rose Window
INTRODUCTION TO CHARTRES
Watch the river flow
intro to Chartres
They've turned it into a game
Leading the blind-folded person from the outer edge to the middle
Click the picture to play the video (via YouTube)
Old building have a roof like this
Taxes are paid by ground square footage
Main gate into the old city
Along the L`Eura
Along the L`Eura - Clothes washing station
The old gate before WWII
Remainder of the gate
Old city market
Three stories...much wider at the top
Before we visited the Cathedral, Arnaud introduced us to the town center of Chartres. We started with some info about the buildings. Some are as old as the city itself. But you can identify the oldest buildings by their roof line. The roof of the oldest building peak in the middle from side-to-side...the newer building (less than 400 years) peak from front to back. You'll also notice that in many of the older buildings the top floor overhangs the bottom floor. Taxes were calculated on the square footage of the bottom floor.
After passing by the Cathedral we went down along the L'Eura River. What a great place to have a home. There are a number of restaurants and shops along the river. There's a laundry washing station along the river as well.
Moving up from the river we made our way to the old city gate on that side of the old town. The gate looked like the picture on the side of the restaurant before WWII. Unfortunately a bomb took out most of the gate leaving only a shadow.
Moving on by the old market and some more interesting buildings we ended our introduction at the overlook of the Les Jardins de l`Eveche (The Gardens of the Bishopric). The mosaic in the park is also found in the floor of the Cathedral. The one outside is used by students as a challenging game where one student (blind folded) is lead only by voice commands from the outside of the mosaic to the middle without (mostly) stepping on the grass. Looked like a LOT of fun.
Introduction to Chartres
THE INTERNATIONAL STAINED-GLASS CENTER
Holy bishop giving a blessing (front)
Holy bishop giving a blessing (close-up of the corrosion)
Original building rafters
The tree of Jesse (four of six existing)
The Virgin and Child
The patriarchs planting the vine
Hand blown glass before flatting
Stained glass is VERY important in Chartres. As you can see from the pictures inside the Cathedral it is LOADED with stained glass windows. So it fits that there is the International Stained-Glass Center not far from the Cathedral. It's a great place to visit.
There are examples of stained glass taken from churches, etc. which were no longer around. In one case, the stained glass shows significant erosion. We didn't even realize this would be an issue.
You can clearly see damage on a number of the examples because the canning cut across where it just shouldn't. In still other cases several windows have been combined into one, resulting in some interesting outcomes.
The final picture appears to be a bottle. Actually it's a sheet of stained glass before it is cut along a seam to flatten it out.
One final note. On our tour they offered a class on making stained glass. In our opinion it was a waste of time. You simply cut some cane to go around a precut piece of glass and then you draw a figure on it. NOT WORTH THE MONEY!
The International Stained-Glass Center 5 rue du Cardinal Pie 28000 Chartres Tel: +33(0)2 37 21 65 72 FAX: +33(0)2 37 36 15 34
CHARTES CATHEDRAL OF NOTRE DAME
Malcom Miller (our local guide)
Left Jambs, Central Portal, North Porch
Right Jambs, Central Portal, North Porch
Close-up North Porch Sculptures
Close-up North Porch Sculptures
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (Alter)
Looking up the front of Chartres Cathedral
The Chartres Cathedral is the highlight of Chartres. Located only a couple of blocks from our hotel, we visited the Cathedral a number of times.
Chartres Cathedral, also known as Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres (French: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres), is a medieval Catholic cathedral of the Latin Church located in Chartres, France, about 80 kilometres (50 mi) southwest of Paris. It is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current cathedral, mostly constructed between 1194 and 1250, is the last of at least five which have occupied the site since the town became a bishopric in the 4th century.
The cathedral is in an exceptional state of preservation. The majority of the original stained glass windows survive intact, while the architecture has seen only minor changes since the early 13th century. The building's exterior is dominated by heavy flying buttresses which allowed the architects to increase the window size significantly, while the west end is dominated by two contrasting spires a 105-metre (349 ft) plain pyramid completed around 1160 and a 113-metre (377 ft) early 16th-century Flamboyant spire on top of an older tower. Equally notable are the three great façades, each adorned with hundreds of sculpted figures illustrating key theological themes and narratives.
Since at least the 12th century the cathedral has been an important destination for travellers and remains so to this day, attracting large numbers of Christian pilgrims, many of whom come to venerate its famous relic, the Sancta Camisa, said to be the tunic worn by the Virgin Mary at Christ's birth, as well as large numbers of secular tourists who come to admire the cathedral's architecture and historical merit.
The pictures above cover a portion of our tour with our guide Malcom Miller. Wow what an experience. This man has dedicated his life to studying the Cathedral and understanding all that "it has to say". He says he still has more to learn. We sure didn't think so. His depth of knowledge was clearly demonstrated. The stories displayed in the artwork of the Cathedral are almost endless. Let it suffice to say that the two hours we spent with him flew by.
There are two other section covering the Cathedral. There is one showing pictures of the stained glass and another showing pictures of the evening light show. Far too many pictures for one section.
Chartes Cathedral of Notre Dame
CHARTRES CATHEDRAL LIGHT SHOW
One of many shown on the front
A final front view
Finally...on the Art Museum
Each evening during the summer months, there is a light show projected on the Chartres Cathedral. You'd think this is just a gimmick (well maybe a little) but it was really great. The show lasted about a half hour to forty five minutes. It then repeats until midnight. As you can see from the videos, the show is quite well done. Be sure not to miss the displays on the other side of the Cathedral and on the art museum out back. This is highly recommended and a must see.
Chartres Cathedral Light Show
LA PICOTERIE RESTAURANT
We decided to give crepes a try. It turned out to be a great decision. We all loved our crepes and were sorry we couldn't find another crepe restaurant on our trip. Highly recommended.
La Picoterie Restaurant 36 rue des Changes 28000 Chartres Tel: 02 37 36 14 54
LE BISTROT DE LA CATHEDRALE
Our first dinner together
Our first dinner together
Our first dinner together
Our first dinner together
Dinner with our tour group on the first night is an interesting experience. Everybody want to know about everybody else. Where do we come from? Where have we traveled? Have we ever been on a RS tour before? Waht do we do for a living? ...etc, etc. IT'S GREAT getting to know everyone.
Le Bistrot de la Cathedrale Cathedral Square 28000 Chartres Tel: 02.37.36.59.60
LE PICHET 3
Inside the restaurant
Diet cola French style
Lunch with Jan and Jack
Le Pichet 3 19 Rue de Cheval Blanc 28000 Chartres, France Tel: 0237210835
TIMHOTEL CHARTRES CATHEDRALE
Chartres Art at the hotel
Sunset on the Cathedrale
The Timhotel is located directly down the street from the train station. Go out the doors of the station that face the city and head up the street exactly opposite. The hotel is up the street on the left about 150 yards.
As Rick says the lobby of the hotel is nothing to write home about but the rooms are nice and our view of the Cathedral was beautiful. The location of the hotel is ideal for visiting the Cathedral and is located close by a number of restaurants.