Restoration in Miniature – Notre Dame du Pilier (Dennis Aubrey)

The Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres is in the middle of a restoration process that has engendered a great deal of controversy, most of which has fortunately died down. The major source of this was Martin Filler’s article in the New York Review of Books and the subsequent rebuttal by Jeffrey Hamburger and Madeline Calviness. Much of Filler’s objection is that he does not agree on the precise period of history that is the target of the restoration and that it will somehow remain the Chartres of Henry Adams Mont Saint Michel and Chartres or Joris-Karl Huysmans’ La Cathédrale.

We will cover more of this restoration debate later, especially after a discussion of the purpose and the discoveries with Gilles Fresson who works at the cathedral. But it was not only the restoration of the church that was castigated by Filler. The restoration of the famed Black Madonna Notre Dame du Pilier aroused his wrath.

Notre Dame du Pilier, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey
Notre Dame du Pilier, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

“Observant Catholics,” Filler writes, “whose primary interest in the cathedral is religious rather than aesthetic, have been particularly appalled by one aspect of the program: the repainting of Our Lady of the Pillar, the early-seventeenth-century devotional statue of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child familiarly known as the Black Madonna … Whenever and however Chartres’s Black Madonna acquired its mysterious patina — through oxidation or smoke from candles and incense — it was familiar as such to centuries of the faithful until its recent multicolored makeover, which has transformed the Mother of God into a simpering kewpie doll.”

Post-restoration, Notre Dame du Pilier, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey
Post-restoration, Notre Dame du Pilier, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

We can see in the pre-restoration version of the vierge that Notre Dame du Pilier was indeed black. Her “patina” was the result of years of soot accumulation from the devotional candles lit in her honor, dirt, and other accumulations. She was dressed in regal robes and crowned in order to remind us of her special status.

Pre-restoration, Notre Dame du Pilier, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey
Pre-restoration, Notre Dame du Pilier, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The restoration removed the accumulation of soot and revealed the traces of the earlier, if not original, polychrome paint. The decision was made to restore these colors, including the clothes, so that there was no need for the robes and crown.

Post-restoration, Notre Dame du Pilier, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey
Post-restoration, Notre Dame du Pilier, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Filler finished his tirade with “We know that ancient Greek statues were painted in vivid polychrome and adorned with earrings, spears, and other metal accouterments. But the idea of actually adding such long-lost elements to, say, the Parthenon Marbles would be even more controversial than the longstanding debate over where those sculptures should be housed. Officials in charge at Chartres now are engaged in a pursuit as foolhardy as adding a head to the Winged Victory of Samothrace or arms to the Venus de Milo.”

Post-restoration, Notre Dame du Pilier, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey
Post-restoration, Notre Dame du Pilier, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Filler seems very fond of using the term patina to refer to the process of aging in both the cathedral and in the status. Just to give you an idea of what “patina” really represents at Chartres, we offer the following photograph.

“Patina”, Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Notice that there are three levels of restoration here. To the left, the columns show the cleaned columns with no subsequent treatment. These columns feature lighter areas that are the paint from the original construction of the cathedral, especially in the lower regions. The center, the choir, shows the restored apse with the restored windows above at the clerestory level. This section has been repainted according to the best information available from the cleaned columns. Finally, the dark, almost black band on the right, is the uncleaned, unrestored south transept. In real life it is easily this dark, perhaps even darker. The cathedral was dark and mysterious, which offered a certain charm and certainly for Huysmans, was the fitting look for his Chartres.

Ultimately, we are faced with a choice of which version of Christianity the cathedral should represent. Should it be the joyous Christianity of 13th century Chartres, or the dour, post-rationalist Christianity of the industrial age?

We would love to hear from our readers about this restoration, in particular that of Notre Dame du Pilier.

31 thoughts on “Restoration in Miniature – Notre Dame du Pilier (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. I am all for cleaning and restoring as closely as possible to what the original builders had in mind. I see no reason to leave soot and dirt. I was at Chartres briefly in early May–hope I am still able to travel when they are finished. An example of cleaning and restoration in the area where I live is San Xavier del Bac near Tucson. I grew up seeing it uncleaned and unrestored. It was cleaned and restored a few years ago–the difference is almost unreal. Far more beautiful in the original then in the dirty, soot stained condition.

    1. Mike, funding problems have slowed the restoration, which should have been finished this year some time, next year at the latest. When we questioned the people at Chartres, they could not give us a date for completion.

  2. I agree about the cleaning of San Xavier Del Bac, having seen it both ways following visits of many years. I also visited Chartres in 1991. I cannot comment on Notre Dame du Pilier because we were illegally parked in front of a gate and Ed was nervous to move the car, so we didn’t spend nearly as long in the Cathedral s I would have liked, but I loved the mystery of the dark surroundings. It gave me a sense of awe and quiet reverence. There were no chairs. I could imagine the physical torture of traveling the maze on your knees as I had read about pilgrims doing in the past.

    1. Kalli, the dark sheltering cathedral was like the Romanesque churches that we photograph so often. But the restored cathedral is like a burst of song. Still reverent and awe-inspiring, but with a different feeling. I always think of the Gothic churches as the result for the search for light in the cathedral. We see that today.

  3. You launder your clothes when they get dirty, you hoover and brush and clean the inside of your house or apartment, you wash you windows so that God’s sunlight and starlight can pass more clearly. Why would anyone want to worship in a dirty Church? And as a medievalist myself, as a restorer, as a living-history-interpreter, – I want to see what things were like when they came fresh and new from the hands of Master Artisans and their dedicated Journeymen. I thought Filler was an critic desperate for medie attention when I first heard about the controversy he started, – and I STILL think so, having read as many of his arguments as have made it into the media. I would prohibit the man from my Workshops, I would prohibit the man from any Restoration Project i might be managing, and I would advise my Clients to have nothing to do with him Four of the World’s largest and most prestigious Curating Organizations – the National Trust, English Heritage, the Royal Palaces, and Welsh Heritage – do not agree with his “leave it dirty” approach. Filler is trying to exercise the power of his criticism, knowing that he’ll never be called to account for them because he doesn’t have any responsibility for the Project. That’s pathetic. Unfortunately, he will undoubtedly attract other feckless armchair critics onto his bandwagon -other petty people desperate for media exposure to bolster flagging careers.

    1. Julian, I am crossing my fingers that you live long enough to see Notre Dame de Chartres restored – the latest guess is 2017, but it may move on. As far as Filler is concerned, anytime someone labels a project like this “Scandalous” we have good reason to suspect his motives. And while I certainly respect the opinions of Rosemarie Haag Bletter, her personal specialty is 20th century architectural history. As far as Filler’s opening salvo, “Though I had long been acquainted with this renowned Gothic landmark through photographs, I was quite unprepared for the visceral impact of its dark, soaring interior, especially the famous stained glass windows that glowed like precious gems set into the intricately carved stone walls. I began to understand how this overwhelming creation could be perceived as heaven on earth. ”

      The impact of Chartres’ famous windows was almost negligible for the last 30 years that I have known the cathedral. Even when Malcolm Miller explained them in the “old days” to small groups it was difficult to see the details and the smaller panels were illegible. The fact that Filler refers to “precious gems set into intricately carved stone walls” is proof that he couldn’t see the walls, which are simple and plain, anything but “intricately carved”. Today, these windows are magnificent and the amount of light that penetrates the interior is remarkable.

      I noticed an interesting phenomenon this June; when the light was coming in the restored windows of the south transept, the unrestored transept was almost black. The contrast was so great to the naked eye that we could see no detail whatsoever of the architecture from the north transept. Some kind of cleaning was certainly required, of that there can be no dispute. But how? Was it to be cleaned to the level of the original paint and left that way throughout the cathedral. That would have left a result looking like leprosy. Should it have been repainted some “neutral” color? What would Filler suggest? You are right that Filler has no responsibility for the work and chooses to criticize the work of the very able architects and restoration specialists who are charged with the restoration. This is not a 24-year old Viollet-le-Duc restoring a ruined basilica in Vézelay almost two-centuries ago. And it comes down to the fact that he does so because it offends his personal artistic taste. He quotes Adrien Goetz, an art historian, the new effect is like “watching a film in a movie theater where they haven’t turned off the lights.” Filler goes on to say “Whereas the old, age-darkened masonry heightened the intense colors of the windows, the new paint subverts them.” This is simply not true. Again in June, I noticed that the light blue of the restored Notre Dame de la Belle Verriere was different than I had seen before the ambulatory was restored. There was a slight change in tint that was absolutely noticeable.

      1. the Notre Dame de la belle Verriere window in in bay 14 on the south side of the nave inside the entrance ..not in the ambulatory ….

    2. Filler’s argument is no t’ leave it dirty ‘ that’s you using cheap and emotive language to make your argument sound like the only game in town … see my other responses here

  4. Oh, yes, I think what they restoration team are doing at Chatres is wonderful; and I’m sorry I’m unlikly to live long enough to see it completely restored in all it’s glory. I’ll have to content myself with the enjoyment of Jersey’s recently refurbished Catholic “cathedral”.

  5. Your before and after photographs of the Madonna are fantastic record, and your instructive shot of the ‘filthy-cleaned-repainted’ is great. Many thanks.

    I fear that Martin Filler is noticeably one of the weakest and least insightful contributors to the New York Review, a journal whose every issue I eagerly await here in the Italian countryside, as I have done since I was a student when it began half a century ago.

    This is an issue which offers great potential for intelligent, nuanced and widely contextualised debate, rather than a simplstic journalistic campaigning.

    (Even Mike Clements’ “what the original builders had in mind” deserves careful deconstructing and, had I time, I could bore on the subject for hours. But you raise the issues wonderfully succinctly in a few words and fine photos.)

    1. John, I was pretty sure this was you just by the content! Thanks, as always. We both are well aware of the deep currents that run through this topic. I am going to address Filler’s comments later in a subsequent post. As far as his quotation of C. Edson Armi, “At Paray-le-Monial, one of the handful of most important Romanesque buildings in France, where the entire interior surface, including capitals, has been coated in fire-engine orange … “, the following photograph from 2007 will show the real color of the paint, almost identical to that used at Saint Nectaire, Notre Dame du Port, Souvigny, and many others. It is a special formulation designed to protect the stone against molds. The color is designed to fade over time.

      Choir, Basilique Notre Dame, Paray-le-Monial (Saône-et-Loire)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

      John, I would love to hear more from you especially on this subject, but given the constraints on your time, I will content myself with your comments.

  6. Apologies for leaving an anonymous comment yesterday; I don’t like anonymous comments especially if they are critical. I expected my computer to know who I was and to tell you!

  7. ref; “Ultimately, we are faced with a choice of which version of Christianity the cathedral should represent. Should it be the joyous Christianity of 13th century Chartres, or the dour, post-rationalist Christianity of the industrial age?”
    Even before the cathedral was “finished”, there were additions and restorations that were not in the original style viz the sculpted choir screen and reference the photo of the choir above where early nineteenth century ‘classical improvements’ are visible. I suspect there are more than two alternatives that might be considered worth restoring. Why has the whole building to submit to an homogenious or even homogenised look? I’m not sure that “Christianity” mentioned above is not a ‘moveable feast’ anyhow.

    ref “We know that ancient Greek statues were painted in vivid polychrome and adorned with earrings, spears, and other metal accouterments.” Vivid polychrome may be remnants of the undercoats rather than top coats of ancient Greek sculpture, it seems disingenuous to suggest that vivid colours were what the ancient Greeks saw given ancient comments about verisimilitude in Greek painting and evident verisimilitude of scul[ptural forms.

    1. Peter, thanks for the considered comment. A couple of points. First, the cathedral was built in a remarkably short time-span (1194 to 1250) which accounts for its homogeneity. The famous choir screen was sculpted over a period of 210 years, 1510 to 1720. This screen is currently being restored as well. The west facade was all that remained from Bishop Fulbert’s Romanesque church that burned in 1194 and it has been restored already. The famous towers including the 16th-century Flamboyant spire atop the north tower are being restored as well. So in reality, the church is full of non-homogenious elements. The Christianity referred to in the opening quote is the Marian fervor that resulted in the construction of Notre Dame de Chartres in so short a time, a Christianity described with great perception by Henry Adams. I do believe that the restorers are very sensitive to this (even though they prefer Huysmans over Adams, naturally). Even those who are in charge of the restoration are very aware of the difficult course they are charting.

      As far as the Greek statues are concerned, I am not sure why vivid polychrome would exist as an undercoat. It seems to me that an undercoat would be of a single color instead of representational of the colors of clothing, flesh, hair, etc. And certainly if we discuss verisimilitude in the strictest form, this would include color, not a monochromatic treatment of some kind.

      We see the same thing in Romanesque churches, many of which have been restored to the painted state of the originals (although not always faithfully). It is jarring at first but we can sense the intent of the builders, as opposed to our own modern perceptions.

      1. Dennis : you said yourself in 2010 ( on this site ) concerning the yellow ochre and white re – painting of the interior of St Nectaire that it was ‘ over bright , over restored and lacking in the feeling and mystery of the Romanesque . You then slightly back pedalled upon a later visit and said that whatever your first thoughts it at least showed up the architectural plan of the building well . You were even less generous about Notre Dame du Port about which you did’nt seem to change your mind …

  8. Never having been in Cathédrale Notre Dame du Chartres, at least in this lifetime, I have only photographs to base an opinion on. For all the “atmosphere” that there seems to be in the soot covered walls, there looks to be a lightness and enlarging of the space with the restoration. That pretty much applies to the lovely Notre Dame du Pilier, while noble covered with soot and fancy clothing, there is a more approachable sense to the restoration.
    For what it is worth, we had a storefront that was painted darkish lavender, it was also quite dirty. After a couple months, it was just too depressing to leave it that way, washing it was pointless, as it was an unattractive color lavender (very much on the gray side, dead and dull). We decided on a soft peachy orange. There was a most dramatic change, it looked like the ceilings raised over a foot, just before the whole area was finished, there was a corner that was still the awful purple and it literally looked as though the building was deformed and leaning down in that corner. It was instructive to us and our customers that such small things could make such a huge difference.
    The Choir, clean and nice looks to be floating, the statue more comfortable without the centuries of soot. I am glad the restorers are being careful, it could be horrid if they weren’t. I also do not really understand why people assume that the Medieval period was one of dark and brooding builing interiors and drab clothing when the historical accounts state otherwise.

    1. Aquila, there is no question that the church is more open and bright, which seems to be Filler’s objection. He liked the dark worn look with the jeweled windows, even though they weren’t jeweled before the restoration. We have photographs that we took before the restoration that we took despite not being able to see what we were photographing … at certain times of the day it was simply too dark. Other times, however, it worked well, like this wonderful shot of PJ lighting candles at the shrine of Notre Dame du Pilier.

      PJ at Notre Dame de Chartres

      1. That is a beautiful shot. I’ve always loved candlelit shots. And yes, the dark church is more mysterious, but that isn’t really what the mystery is. It comes from what happen inside that building, the hopes, the prayers, the belief.
        Some of the photographs I’ve seen of the windows before any restoration were occasionally jewel like – if the sun was very, very bright. I think the restoration is a good thing, they’re being careful, that counts a lot.

      2. Aquila, you’re right about where the mystery comes from, absolutely. As far as the windows are concerned, sections of some were indeed jewel-like, but remember that photographs also can be exposed to maximize whatever light there is. I was in Chartres in May 1986 and the church was almost empty on a cloudy day. The windows were all difficult to see except in patches. The next year I was there on a wonderful sunny day when the church was filled with pilgrims and the windows were much better, but still only in patches. Sections were simply too dark from the years of accumulated grime.

        We can take good cheer from the fact that the restoration is meticulous, sensitive and carried out by people who keenly aware of their responsibilities.

      3. it’s well known that the windows at Chartres are only really properly visible from between 8:30 am to 11:15 and from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm as otherwise the sun is too high in the sky and then the glare from the South Nave , Transept Rose , and Choir Windows all cancel out the lowered brightness on the Northern side . This will not alter ever . The message for people is get there early or leave it til late afternoon

      4. the windows were certainly ‘ jewelled ‘ back in 1998 ,,, maybe apart from the North West and South West Transept ones and a few in the lower ambulatory . Even then they were just coming to the end of the previous restoration ….

    2. Yes of course but there are plenty of loveley bright , light and white Cathedral and Abbey interiors for people to go and see already ! The great thing about the awesome Cathedrals of Northern France to me was the extreme contrast between the mystery and darkness of Chartes ( as it was ) Reims , and Tours .. and the cleansing super bright white interiors of Laon , Le Mans , Auxerre , Coutances , The Abbey of the Trinite at Fecamp and so on … maybe Bourges a nice half way between the two . The pure white stone of those churches is attractive in itself … the grey stone of Chartes and Reims , Amiens and Lisieux much less so . The fact that time had darkened some of them with candle ash and grime did make the stained glass weirdly seem to project forward into space in front of you — go to Angers on a dull day , stare at the South Transept Rose Window and you can almost feel your body undergoing a transmogrification into something else after about ten minutes . Almost a religious experience one might say .. not sure it would do that if they scrubbed the tracery clean and painted it white

  9. The negative assessments of the cleaning of Chartres submitted above are reminiscent of the outrage inspired by the cleaning of Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling in the 80s. Many older art historians, novelists, and biographers of the artist wanted to preserve the darkened colors and obscured outlines of the figures. They were as convinced as those who today would prefer the darkened structural members and discoloration of sculptural surfaces accrued over time at Chartres. But cleaning the Sistine ceiling revealed so much new visual material that the essentially emotional desire to maintain the darkly romantic atmosphere of 19th century authors has now been supplanted by something closer to the original . The lightened colors and clarified contours enhance the experience of students and scholars as well as the usual eager visitor who, in seeing the ceiling today, can see it as Michelangelo intended it to be seen, keeping in mind the distance of centuries. A revelation of the brilliance of 16th century color has, over time, erased and replaced a nostalgia for the 19th century romantic, mystery of art.

    1. Leatrice, your comparison is so apt. This “essentially emotional desire” to maintain the atmosphere may be disguised as architectural criticism, but it is a response to the cathedral that is appropriate for their own time and their own spiritual state. It often has absolutely nothing to do with what was intended. And for those who say that the restorers have no idea what was intended, they are simply incorrect. The restorers have the evidence in front of them.

    2. Leatrice : the comparison is not valid ! The restoration of the Sistine Chapel was comparable to the restoration of the glass itself at Chartes which no one one ( or hardly anyone is complaining about ! ) The issue here is about the feeling of the passing of time that buildings give off .. their ‘ aura ‘ . The Sistine Chapels restorers took nothing away from the feeling of that buildings Rennaissance interior at all . It still is a 100 % Historical experience walking into it . What the aggressive restoration mentality of the modern French restorers have in many cases achieved is to create an effect which gives the person entering the building something that feels like it lies at the intersection of the past and something that was just finished last week . This is a completeley different state of affairs and it’s why people like Martin Filler have such doubts about it .

      1. but Mr Aubrey .. yes the restorers do have the evidence in front of them … but why do want to go back to the original feel of the buildings when they were new ? I just can’t understand your rationale here ? I often think that most of Germany’s castles ( excepting say examples like Landshut or Marburg ) are rather sad because they were over restored in the 19th century by over zealous romantics who wanted to live in them like Mediaeval Knights of yesteryear …. in their own times . . the result is that say the Imperial Palace at Goslar is a fun experience for tourists but it’s hardly a building for connosseurs or lovers of Architecture and History

  10. I’m sorry Mr Aubrey : there was nothing the slightest bit ‘ dour ‘ about Chartres Cathedral when I visited in back in 1998 , To refer to its pre restoration state as that of a ‘ post rationalist industrial Christianity ‘ is simply a gloss that reveals your own bias . Did’nt you intially post scathing articles here about the over painting of the interiors of Notre Dame du Port and St Nectaire – later slightly re adjusting your view on the latter ? I’m afraid I just cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would have the slightest desire to frankly despoil these beautiful ancient spaces in this way . I only hope the interior paintwork at Paray Le Monial does fade in time . I will not be recommending Chartres Cathedral to anyone from now on .. I’ve already told people to avoid it and visit Troyes , Bourges , Angers , and Tours instead . The principle restorer of Chartres actually said verbatim ” the sense of the great mystery , of the passing of time which people once felt (at Chartres) will be gone : to be replaced by something more fresh and more dynamic ” . Maybe ! but many people do not want their 900 old Cathedrals to feel ‘ fresh and dynamic ‘ That’s what I want when I go swimming at my local leisure center thank you …. I’m just so sorry I will not be able to take my sister to experience the old Chartres now .. yes it will still contain the greatest surviving medieaval glass anywhere but it now will require an effort of imagination to perceive it in the setting that we who saw it before perceived it in . The new viewer will see the glass in a building that gives of the aura of a supermarket .

    1. Timothy, thank you for your series of responses to the restoration controversy at Notre Dame de Chartres. And I thank you for making your comments in a civilized fashion despite the powerful opinions that you hold. A couple of responses.

      First, I certainly have my biases as expressed in both this article and others preceding. The first time that I saw the restored church at Paray-le-Monial it was a shocking and disturbing site. The photograph that I posted, was, however, to show the true colors of the paint as opposed to the quoted “fire-engine orange” described by Armi. I still detest the restoration. And I certainly was disturbed by both Saint Nectaire and Notre Dame du Port as expressed in the earlier posts. I have somewhat modified my view of Notre Dame du Port but still do not like the result at Saint Nectaire. Aesthetically it still disturbs me, but to be honest, it was because I loved the darkened mysterious interior prior to restoration, just as you did at Chartres. At Saint Nectaire, however, it was possible to see every detail of the architecture prior to the restoration. At Notre Dame de Chartres, my opinion is that it is certainly far better than before the restoration when it was almost impossible to even see the architecture. We have photographed the church at all times of the day at different times of the year, from the ground level to the tribunes, interior and exterior. Most of the time, before the restoration it was difficult to even see the details of the architecture. While the “mystery” of the church was perhaps greater because we could not see the church itself, this has little meaning for me. The greater mystery of the church is the magnificence of the design and construction and how it expressed the great currents of medieval faith.

      Personally, I think that it is possible that the tones of the restored painting may be too bright. As I mentioned, even the restorers themselves wanted more information to guide them, worrying that their choices might be too jarring to the eye more accustomed to the darker interior. There may be a compromise somewhere, but the restorers made the choice to restore to the state that was uncovered in the cleaning. And since any choices that they may have made in carrying this too far did no damage at all to the church itself, only to the experience of viewing the church, we can be reassured.

      As to the tone of my article, I was responding mostly to Filler’s use of emotionally charged terms like “scandalous”, which is certainly undeserved in my personal opinion, and in the opinion of others who actually have to make the decisions in historic preservation and restoration. “Scandalous” might have been used for Juste Lisch’s destruction and reconstruction of the Église de la Très-Sainte-Trinité in Germigny-des-Prés or some of the more aggressive work of Paul Abadie, even of Viollet-le-Duc. But this is not what is going on in Chartres.

      As to the windows, a couple of observations. That it is “known that the windows at Chartres are only really properly visible from between 8:30 am to 11:15 and from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm” is debatable. I was in Chartres for three full days in June and the windows were clearly visible and quite brilliant during the day, albeit with different tonalities depending on the location and intensity of the sun. Prior to the restoration, the “properly visible” times may have been as you described, but that is more of a function of the declination of the sun, the direct sunlight streaming into the windows during the morning and late afternoon, as is the case in almost every church that we have photographed. It was especially the case when the windows were so blackened from pollution (both interior and exterior) that they didn’t function well as windows at all.

      Also, Notre Dame de la Belle Verriere is not in the nave. If the ambulatory is strictly defined as the curved area behind the apse and does not include the chancel aisles, then the window is located in the first bay on the south chancel aisle, not the nave, which is on the west side of the south transept. In practice, however, the term “ambulatory” is often used to describe the curved area behind the high-altar as well as the chancel aisles and it was as such that I used the term.

      I am sorry that you will not take your sister to experience the old Chartres, but it seems a shame not to let her experience the cathedral itself and let her make up her own mind. It may seem less of a “supermarket” as you described it and more like the celebratory home of Mary, Queen of Heaven that was built in the 13th century.

      1. Thank you, Denis for this latest extensive discussion of Chartres, both old and restored. I commented on this earlier and appreciate your current thoughts.

  11. I am so pleased I saw the statue of Notre Dame du Pilier before the restoration. Also the Cathedral interior too.
    Having seen it since I almost wept on seeing the statue restored – the once mysterious Black Madonna now looks like a doll as does the Infant Jesus and there is even a sign saying ‘No candles to be lit.’ That particular chapel is no longer a place of prayer as it once was. So sad.
    Also, now the walls have been cleaned the stunning contrast once seen between the black walls and the magnificent windows has vanished. It does however still exist on their postcards which surround the photographs of the stained glass windows with a black border which I found ironic.

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