Part 13: Tours and the Great Cathedral at Chartres


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The Trip

We left Chambord and headed to Chartres.  Since it was along the way, we stopped for lunch in Tours.  We got a lesson on French food schedules, as most of the places we tried were closed for lunch.  Lunch, you see, is from 1200 to 1400 only.  So, if you want to eat at a regular restaurant, pay attention to the time.  We did finally find a one-man-shop that was willing to cook for us and it was good.  After eating, we headed on to Chartres to see the stained glass in the cathedral and then on to Paris for our last hotel stay on this trip.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

The narrow streets of the medieval portion of Tours provided interesting sights, but the sight we were seeking was an "Open" sign on a restaurant.  We had to hike awhile to find one that would serve us.

Along the way I spotted this sign on a bar.  I think that something got lost in the translation here.  I am just guessing that "Bitch on the Sex" was supposed to be "Sex on the Beach" (as in the cocktail, not the act) but we were in France so one can never know.

Finding parking in Tours downtown Saturday during a flea market was challenging.  We found a parking structure that had turns so tight that we thought we were going to tag the side of the rental car (BMW 530).  We did finally find one of the last spots on the roof.  From the roof we got a nice view of the cathedral at Tours, a large and intricate structure.  Note the detailed carvings on the top and the delicate spire.  After eating, we headed on to Chartres to see the large cathedral there.

Our first view of the cathedral at Chartres.  Constructed between 1194 and 1250 A.D. this structure is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This structure is the last of 4 churches to occupy this site with the first being constructed in the fourth century.  The cathedral at Chartres has two contrasting styles for its spires.  The shorter one was completed in 1160 and the slightly taller one completed on an older spire in the early 16the century in the so-called Flamboyant style.

The entire structure at Chartres is very well preserved.  The stained glass is exceptional, however, with most of the glass being unmodified since its installation in the early 13th century.  The stained glass was intended as messaging for the masses.  Since they were generally illiterate, these were iconographic.  They are read left to right from bottom to top and usually depict a message from the bible typically ending with Jesus at the top or it is a depiction of local life.

 This panel does not have a religious context.

The glass was truly impressive but very hard to shoot due to the dim light.  These intricate and detailed panes were removed from the cathedral during WWII to prevent damage.

It is incredible to think that the glass was constructed in the 1200s.

Each alcove was different.

The stone carvings were some of the most intricate we saw on the entire trip.  Truly awe-inspiring.  It is a wonder it was not damaged during the war.

This small panel depicts Christ on the cross.

The windows were very detailed and very busy.

Lots of time and money were thrown at the construction of these windows "back in the day".

Another busy design.

Despite my best efforts (and bad eyesight in dim light) I could not interpret these panels.

There was a live Mass in progress when we arrived at Chartres, so that limited our ability to photograph and see everything.

The shutter speed for this shot was about 1/10sec, but my little camera has very good image stabilization.

The tall alcove over the altar.

Due to the mass in progress, we could not see the altar up close.

The entrance portals were detailed and complex.

Some of the heads at the lower portion of the photo had suffered some damage.

The skill required to do the stone carving was truly remarkable.

Note the contrasting styles of the two spires.

A view down the side of the structure.

A sundial from 1578.

Massive flying buttresses support the tall walls.

This is the outside support structure for one of the stained glass panels.  The whole structure was out of wrought iron.

I saw no documentation about the identities of the individuals represented as statues.

One of the alcoves from the outside.  Again note the wrought iron backing for the stained glass windows.

A maze in the grass on a lower level of the cathedral grounds.

There were other church-related structures on the grounds.

Something you don't see every day: a couple of baby ferrets on leashes.  These guys are fast but seemed to be playfully enjoying their day out.

Another side of the cathedral showing the flying buttresses and the outside of the stained glass windows.

A parting shot of the external statues at Chartres.  Note that two of these fellows are standing on the backs of commoners.  Also note the twist direction of the spiral columns are not all the same.

When we finished at Chartres we headed toward our hotel in Paris.  We slugged it out in slow traffic for most of the trip.  Above, we came upon a fire of some kind along the side of the highway that was burning out of control.

Chartres was truly remarkable.  The stone work was very well preserved and intricate beyond description.  I can see why it is a UNESCO site.

This was a wonderful trip filled with great experiences and great memories.  Much thanks to Michele for her detailed planning of this trip, without which we would have wasted much valuable in-country time.

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