PJ and I have documented in other articles how the Cathedral Notre Dame de Chartres is being restored to its former glory. We have worked with the American Friends of Chartres and Chartres, Sanctuaire du Monde for several years now documenting this restoration.
The restoration of the stained glass at the cathedral is one of the great accomplishments of this project. Long considered the finest ensemble of medieval glass, we are just now beginning to see the windows in their original condition again. The years have not been kind and the accumulation of inside dust and outside pollution had made the windows almost opaque. The famous “Chartres blue” (a luminous blue glass made from a sodic flux and colored with cobalt, it has survived the centuries almost unchanged) was a thing of legend. The interior of Notre Dame was almost dark.
The program of restoration began in 1983 and has made enormous progress through those years. American Friends of Chartres has contributed by funding the restoration of the five south transept lancets. The windows, executed around 1221, were commissioned by Pierre Mauclerc, first of the Dukes of Brittany through marriage to Alix de Thouars. They are shown with their children in the base of the lancets.
The theme of the five lancets is that the Old Testament prophets formed the foundation for the writings of the New Testament evangelists. This is illustrated by depicting the evangelists sitting on the shoulders of the much larger Old Testament prophets.
The central lancet shows Mary crowned as Queen of Heaven with a scepter in her right hand and the infant Jesus seated on her left arm.
Among the restored windows is the magnificent Notre Dame de la Belle Verriere, perhaps the most beautiful of all the windows and the symbol of the cathedral itself. We feel privileged to see her in pristine condition like this.
Among the details of the Belle Verriere window are the four angels bearing columns supporting the ‘Throne of Wisdom’ and Angel wielding a censer.Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres, Chartres (Eure) Photo by Dennis Aubrey
American Friends of Chartres has already begun fund-raising for its next project, the restoration of the windows of Bay 140. This is the second bay from the west on the south side of the nave clerestory and features the Alpha and Omega Rose Window and the lancets of Saint Peter and Saint James the Major.
The techniques and processes used by the French to restore these windows are worth a study in themselves and will constitute a later article. If you are interested in exploring the full panoply of the Chartres windows, you should go to this link for the work of Dr. Stuart Whatling at Medievalart.org. The listing only has the windows that have been restored but the photography is excellent.
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