Architecture in the Middle Ages: Chartres Cathedral Essay

The cathedral was the most important building in the town of Chartres. It was the centre of the economy, the most famous landmark and the focal point of almost every activity that is provided by civic buildings in towns today. Chartres cathedral has upheld its importance in the life of the people within the community, and has lived up to its labour and expectations. The cathedral was important in the everyday life of all, whether it was used as a church, a marketplace, or just a marvel for all to view.

Because of its diversity, it brought a lot of attention and prosperity to the city of Chartres, which helped it grow more, which then created a magnificent cycle to be lived up to. Chartres cathedral was an important structure in Medieval Europe because of its religious aspects, socio-economic impact and architectural styles that it brought forward. Religion plays a key role in many lives today, and has been for many years—Chartres cathedral fed this appetite with the stories behind the windows, the history behind the sacred tunic and the uses behind the labyrinth.

For the longest time, the stained glass in Chartres were one of the main sources of religious knowledge. The windows have been supplying all around it with the stories of the Old Testament, the Virgin Mary and the life of Christ—many of the windows were used as “a ready source of instruction for the illiterate population” because education was not as valued in these times. These windows, through their extreme importance, proved to be a huge benefactor in the lives of the inhabitants of Chartres. In addition, the cathedral was said to have housed a tunic that supposedly belonged to Blessed Virgin Mary.

This tunic was thought to be lost when the first cathedral burned down, but “after three days of cooling, priests who had taken shelter in the underground vaults emerged from the ruins, amongst many witnesses, with the relic intact. ” This in itself had proven to the people of Chartres to be a miracle, and it was believed to be a sign from Mary herself, therefore the construction was begun again. It was also believed that this tunic provided the community and the church with a protection, and when the townspeople believed they had been deserted by their protector in the fire, they thought that “the rebuilding was futile.

The labyrinth also provided to the religion aspect of Chartres cathedral. This labyrinth was used as a pilgrimage or for repentance, though “as a pilgrimage it was a questing, searching journey with the hope of becoming closer to God. ” The labyrinth was considered to be a religious, protected part of the church because it survived the fire, and once you get to the middle, you are greeted by a cross, a symbol of enlightenment. Although the religion makes up a good portion of the history of Chartres, the socio-economic aspects have to be considered when judging its importance.

Chartres cathedral gained its importance socially and economically by its mysteries, its uses as a market and its uses as a social club. The mysteries of Chartres cathedral, such as the tunic and the windows, attract much attention to the community, which helps increase population as well as the money created from tourists. It is the fact that “Chartres’ windows are unique in the sense that a stained glass window became the object of devotion” that makes people keep coming back for more.

Also, Chartres cathedral was used socio-economically in the ways that it had been used as a marketplace within the community; “The cathedral was the most important building in the town of Chartres. It was the centre of the economy, the most famous landmark and the focal point of almost every activity that is provided by civic buildings in towns today. ” As well as there being merchants within the doors of the cathedral, there were also the odd workers who were “gathered in the cathedral seeking jobs, such as carpenters and masons. ” To add to that, Chartres cathedral was used as a social club during World War II.

While the windows were removed from it, the Germans would use the cathedral as a social club during their occupation in France. This cathedral is first seen as …a place of worship and reverence, sacred to God. But crossing that threshold in the Middle Ages took you into many places at once: a town hall, a social club, even a marketplace, and yet also a temple, a place of authority, and indeed nothing less than a kind of heaven itself. Although Chartres is known for its socio-economic success, its architecture is also a renowned subject pertaining to this cathedral.

This cathedral is important because it has changed the way that many people look at architecture by looking at new architectural features, structural defeats and architect’s modesty. “In 1194, the master-builder of Chartres outlined new principles which would inspire all the great architects of the 13th century…”—Chartres cathedral had “established several new architectural features never seen before (flying buttresses and the arches used) and pioneered new techniques for construction at high elevations above ground (…war machines… into hoisting cranes). This would later change some of the techniques used to build and create other Gothic styled cathedrals.

Also, this cathedral had overcome a couple structural defeats to add to its list of greatness. Chartres had to succumb to many different fires over its span, and it had to keep on getting rebuilt time after time. Also, with towers standing at around 115 metres tall, this cathedral had been the tallest of its kind around—“before this, nothing had ever been built at such heights. ”Another aspect adding to the importance of this building architecturally is the modesty and selflessness of the architects that planned its building.

Many of the architects involved in the creation of this cathedral have went on nameless because it doesn’t matter who made it, but what was made—“ To make something as exquisite as this without wanting to smash your… name all over it. All you hear about nowadays is people making names, not things. ” The religious aspects, socio-economic impacts and architectural styles of the Chartres cathedral are the reason it deserves to be known as an important structure. Chartres was built and rebuilt based on its religious hopes and beliefs, and it served to be an occupant to the people while the other problems of the time were occurring.

This building was also beneficial for the townsfolk because they had a way to get together, trade, and communicate in a safe and forgiving place, under the eyes of God. The architecture in itself is enough to consider this building important: it provided architects with ways of getting around their problems and it bettered things to use and do to improve what I being done. Chartres has been a very helpful and important building in helping us study past beliefs, life and helping us to acquire the knowledge we need for innovations and the construction of future great buildings, much like this one.

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