Little Bits of History

Notre Dame

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 24, 2013
Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

October 24, 1260: A Cathedral is dedicated. Located in Chartres, about 50 miles outside Paris, the church’s full name is Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres or in French Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres. While the architect is unknown, his famous building is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in France. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The church is 426 feet long and has a width of 105/151 feet due to its cruciform design. There are 186 stained glass windows and 200 statues in 41 scenes. There is one labyrinth. There are two contrasting spires, one plain at 349 feet high and one lacy confection at 337 feet high.

Even before the cathedral was built, Chartres was a pilgrimage site. Legend states a tunic belonging to the Blessed Virgin Mary has been housed at the site since 876, a gift from Charlemagne. Many churches have been built on the site and destroyed by fire. A cathedral so destroyed in 1020 was replaced by a Romanesque basilica. This, too, was doomed and mostly destroyed in an 1134 fire which burned most of Chartres to ashes. Rebuilding again took place. A lightning strike on June 10, 1194 started fires which destroyed all but the towers and the facade between them, along with the crypt and Royal Portal. Miraculously, Mary’s sacred garment was found unscathed.

The garment’s survival was seen as a sign from heaven and soon donations came in from all over France to rebuild an even more spectacular church. By 1220 the main structure was complete. The grand building incorporated the crypt and the Royal Portal built in the mid-12th century. There were a full set of spires on the plans, but these were never completed. It took forty years for the official dedication to be held. King Louis IX and his family were in attendance when the church was finally officially dedicated.

During the French Revolution the building remained sacrosanct and avoided looting and damage. The stained glass windows splash color onto the floors like scattered jewels. The West Rose and three lancet windows date from 1100. The North and South Rose and five more lancet windows date from 1230. Of the 186 windows, 152 are the original works. Part of the stone floor is given over to a mathematical meditative device. The 11-circuit labyrinth was used by monks who prayed while walking the path. The length of the path is 740 “long feet” or 888 “Roman feet” or 858 feet.

“A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” – Dalai Lama

“People don’t come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.” – George Bernard Shaw

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: In 1548 parts of the Cathedral were damaged because they were considered idolatrous by rioting Huguenots. During the reigns of both Louis XIV and XV many attempts were made to modernize this building as well as many other cathedrals across Europe. In 1786 a huge statue of St. Christopher as well as some tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed in this modernization. The cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being during the French Revolution. During this interlude, many of the kings of Judah were thought to be historical French kings and the statues were beheaded. Many of the heads were found during excavation efforts in 1977 and they are displayed at the Musée de Cluny. The cathedral because a warehouse for food storage for a time.

Also on this day: Nedelin Catastrophe – In 1960, a Soviet Union ICBM exploded on the launchpad.
Terror Along the Beltway – In 2002, the Beltway Sniper was arrested.
Earth – In 1946 the first picture of Earth from outer space was taken.

2 Responses

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  1. hairballexpress said, on October 24, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Excellent !

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