The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres or Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres – dominates the skyline of the French provincial town of Chartres as evidenced by its titanic silhouette that can be seen from miles away. Surviving a tumultuous history of fire and destruction since 743, including a lightning strike in 1194 that destroyed most of the magnificent Romanesque basilica save the western façade (front), the towers (not including spires) and the crypt, the Chartes cathedral we see today was consecrated in 1260, save the northern tower which was completed in 1507. Note the two very distinct architectural designs of these towers betraying its devastating history.
For over 1000 years, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres has been a pilgrimage for Christians seeking a glimpse of one of the holiest relics possessed by any church in the world – the veil of the Virgin Mary – presented to the cathedral in 876. Because this relic survived the 1194 destruction, it is believed that Mary herself saved this sacred remnant and proclaimed the construction of the new cathedral.
A fascinating history awaits at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres. Be sure to take the time to wander through this charming medieval town and sample the pastries and breads!