Last September we had the fortune to receive a commission to shoot the Cathedral of Chartres for the American Friends of Chartres. AMERICAN FRIENDS OF CHARTRES (AFC) is a non-profit organization created in 2005 to assist in the restoration and preservation of the cathedral of Nôtre-Dame de Chartres. A previous post detailed our meeting with Servane de Layre Mathéus, head of Chartres, Sanctuaire du Monde, a private French organization, which for 14 years has worked in close cooperation with the Historic Monuments Commission and supports the public of the French government to restore Chartres. They work closely with AFC to coordinate the conservation efforts at Chartres.
For three days we had complete access to the church, despite the tremendous amount of restoration work taking place. The shoot was scheduled for just a few days after we arrived in France and PJ was concerned that she was not ‘in form’. Added to that worry were the difficult conditions in the church because of the restoration and the crowds of people. At the end of the three days she was convinced that she had not done well. This post is intended to allay her fears. Here are five of her shots picked at random that do justice to the great Cathedral of Our Lady.
The first shot looks through the nave pillars across to the north transept windows in the distance. To the right, the walls are almost white. This is the apse, where both the stone and the windows have undergone the restoration process and as a result, gleams brightly compared to the unrestored stone surfaces of the rest of the structure. It will be three years more restoration work and the entire cathedral will glow like this. In order to understand the scope of this “nettoyage” that this cleaning work is done with instruments the size of toothbrushes and the windows are cleaned with Q-tips.
Part of the access we received was to the roof and the tribunes above the ground level of the church. This next shot is down into the nave from the north transept. PJ was standing on a narrow stone walkway with almost no protection in order to get these shots. There is no possible way that I could have gotten this photo because of my acrophobia, but she’s like a mountain goat.
Here’s another shot from above, this time across to the nave tribunes and the windows above. It is certainly a glorious view of the church.
This is a fine view of the nave from the south transept. I love the framing of the windows in the nave arches here.
Here is one of PJ’s shots through the ambulatory back into the distant nave. It gives a sense of the different views of the church that one discovers moving through the space. It is one of the many signs of the genius of these builders that such a complex space with many different vistas is still artistically uniform and hangs together as a whole.
The three days at Chartres were certainly memorable – we discovered from personal experience that there are no atheists on the copper roof of the cathedral during a thunderstorm; we were locked in the crypt for awhile which did not bother me but drove PJ crazy. But most of all, we were amazed by the glorious architecture and the windows of Chartres. We will definitely return in three years when the Cathedral if finished and shoot her from top to bottom. Can’t wait for that day.
Location: 48.447778° 1.487887°