Our Lady of Chartres

July 13: Our Lady of Chartres

To Chartres belongs the distinction of being not only the oldest shrine in France, but also – in all probability – the oldest shrine of Our Lady in the world. It is actually pre-Christian, like the Athenians’ “altar to the unknown god” and was dedicated to the Virgin who would bring forth a son, at least a century before the birth of Christ. Later, it was a pilgrimage site due to a well located there, “the Well of Strong Saints,” for the bodies of many early Christian martyrs had been cast into that well. So Chartres was a site of pilgrimages long before the construction of the beautiful Gothic cathedral that now occupies the spot.

Eleven centuries later, 1140, Christians were returning from the first crusade with new Byzantine dignity added to their idea of the kind of art demanded for the veneration of royalty. In 1144 “men began to laden themselves with stone and wood…and drag them to the site of the church, the towers of which were then a-building. It was a spectacle the like of which he who has seen will never see again.” Rich and poor alike put their strength and their possessions into the work for Our Lady of Chartres.

Our Lady of Chartres

The result is still standing, as strong as the moment it was consecrated in 1260 – an architectural marvel that makes men gape in admiration. Eric Gill listed the sight of it among the five most awe-filled moments of his life. It is not the first church built at the site, as there were at least five previous structures built there during the previous centuries.

Chartres is the court were Mary, Our Lady of Chartres, sits enthroned beside her Son, receiving her subjects, turning peasant pilgrims into lovers of the beautiful, turning crusty scholars, come to see about some detail, into romantic fools at her feet.

Mary sits above the southern door, crowned and robed and sceptered like an eastern empress; Christ sits above the central door, not as Judge but like Mary, a triumphant benevolent sovereign and long lean figures of kings, queens, saints and prophets stand with oriental dignity, lining the columns of the doorways like courtiers attendant on a king and a queen. The windows above depict the Passion of Christ. Mary enthroned and the Tree of Jesse – windows better than any made by a Byzantine genius.

This Cathedral of Notre Dame is probably the most beautiful Gothic church in the world; in its crypt is the shrine of Our Lady Underground, in the choir, a statue of Our Lady of the Pillar, a reputed garment of Mary’s, the Sancta Carmisa, is preserved in the treasury. This garment was acquired in 876, and is believed to be the tunic that the Blessed Virgin wore at the time of Christ’s birth. It is believed the garment was given to the church by Charlemagne. Kings and princes, popes and prelates, saints and sinners, thousands after thousands of ordinary people have come here on pilgrimages for seven hundred years. Miracle upon miracle has been the response to their faith, their confidence and their ardent prayers to Our Lady of Chartres.

*from The Woman in Orbit

The author is the world's foremost authority on Chartres, and is in residence there most of the year. He shows us the history of the cathedral and teaches us how to "read" the world-famous stained glass and sculpture, explaining the references to Scripture and the teachings of the Church.

Chartres alone, of all the great medieval churches, has survived into the 20th century almost intact, not only architecturally but with its vast inconographic program in 12th-and 13th-century stained glass and sculpture.

Medieval art was intended not just to embellish the church but to instruct the people, for there was no printing. Scholars could therefore teach their students, the clergy preach sermons and parents read the lives of the saints to their children using the 'texts' in stained glass and sculpture. The sister churches of Chartres have been sadly vandalized to varying degrees by Reform, revolution, war or natural disaster. Here in Chartres the 'text' is virtually complete.

Return to Marian Calendar July from Our Lady of Chartres

Return to Titles of Mary from Our Lady of Chartres

Return to Roman Catholic Saints Home Page from Our Lady of Chartres


Pelayo king of Asturias

Pelayo, King of Asturias  --

Pelayo's resistance initiated the nearly 800-year-long Reconquista to take back his country from the ruthless invader who had conquered his homeland and sought to erase his culture and his faith. His actions would lay the foundations of a Kingdom for Christ that would eventually reach around the world and spread the Catholic faith to millions of souls. Read more...

Please help us continue to bring high quality books to our readers at the lowest possible price! Click the link below! Thank you!

Now Available!

Defenders of Christendom
Battles - Honor - Miracles!
This book is filled with
amazing stories of little-known
Catholic heroes presenting
spectacles of bravery and
valor never exceeded in all the annals of history.
Demonstrating his
gallantry through daring feats
of arms, the knight's faith,
coupled with his marvelous
courage, made him nearly
invincible on the field
of battle. read more . . . 

Learning to Love God

Especially for young children -
Now available as an e-book!

Available for only $2.99 US
as an ebook download.

Also available in Spanish!

The exciting life story of
the holy Catholic knight
known as El Cid!

Available for only

The amazing life story of the
little known incorrupt saint
- King Fernando III!
This highly acclaimed book is
inspirational to young men
and a guide to building a strong
masculine, Catholic character!

Also available as softback!