Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 432 pages of information about Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres.

No doubt the window is very old, or perhaps an imitation or reproduction of one which was much older, but to the pilgrim its interest lies mostly in its personality, and there it stands alone.  Although the Virgin reappears again and again in the lower windows,- -as in those on either side of the Belle-Verriere; in the remnant of window representing her miracles at Chartres, in the south aisle next the transept; in the fifteenth-century window of the chapel of Vendome which follows; and in the third window which follows that of Vendome and represents her coronation,—­she does not show herself again in all her majesty till we look up to the high windows above.  There we shall find her in her splendour on her throne, above the high altar, and still more conspicuously in the Rose of France in the north transept.  Still again she is enthroned in the first window of the choir next the north transept.  Elsewhere we can see her standing, but never does she come down to us in the full splendour of her presence.  Yet wherever we find her at Chartres, and of whatever period, she is always Queen.  Her expression and attitude are always calm and commanding.  She never calls for sympathy by hysterical appeals to our feelings; she does not even altogether command, but rather accepts the voluntary, unquestioning, unhesitating, instinctive faith, love, and devotion of mankind.  She will accept ours, and we have not the heart to refuse it; we have not even the right, for we are her guests.

CHAPTER IX

THE LEGENDARY WINDOWS

One’s first visit to a great cathedral is like one’s first visit to the British Museum; the only intelligent idea is to follow the order of time, but the museum is a chaos in time, and the cathedral is generally all of one and the same time.  At Chartres, after finishing with the twelfth century, everything is of the thirteenth.  To catch even an order in time, one must first know what part of the thirteenth-century church was oldest.  The books say it was the choir.  After the fire of 1194, the pilgrims used the great crypt as a church where services were maintained; but the builders must have begun with the central piers and the choir, because the choir was the only essential part of the church.  Nave and transepts might be suppressed, but without a choir the church was useless, and in a shrine, such as Chartres, the choir was the whole church.  Toward the choir, then, the priest or artist looks first; and, since dates are useful, the choir must be dated.  The same popular enthusiasm, which had broken out in 1145, revived in 1195 to help the rebuilding; and the work was pressed forward with the same feverish haste, so that ten years should have been ample to provide for the choir, if for nothing more; and services may have been resumed there as early as the year 1206; certainly in 1210.  Probably the windows were designed and put in hand as soon as the architect gave the measurements, and any one who intended to give a window would have been apt to choose one of the spaces in the apse, in Mary’s own presence, next the sanctuary.

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Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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