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The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres, France

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Hannah Seidle

on 6 December 2013

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Transcript of The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres, France

Sacred Geometry
The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres, France
"Manifested Holistic Thinking"
The Chartres Cathedral integrates
many different disciplines in its architecture alone including

"The master builders knew all the relationships of the heighth musical, also called diatonic natural scale, and they applied it to the geometry of the architecture of the church" (Rubino).

The most perfect proportion= golden ratio (Burckhardt 3).
This is the ratio of the length of a segment between 2 nonconsecutive corners of a pentagon over the length of its side (equal to about 1.618). This ratio is often shown as a rectangle that contains a square in it, and this proportion is what is used on Chartres.
There is visual unity and balance in Chartres, and can be seen in the language that scholars use to talk about it!
The numbers on the right side here represent the frequency ratios created from each note in the diatonic scale ("Do, Re, Mi..."). These relationships fit very well into the golden ratio as well.
-"The width and height of the nave arcade (which is the central vault in the cathedral and is shown as a cross-section in this picture) and clerestory window were nearly identical, giving a harmonious balance to the composition of the wall" (Calkins 145).
-The nave
, or the thick weight bearing columns, transition into the central
or the smaller columns. These alternate between "polygonal shafts against a cylindrical column on one pier, and cylindrical shafts against a polygonal column on the next," creating a natural "rhythm down the nave" (Calkins 148).
-"The diagonality of the resonds and corresponding ribs emphasize relief of the bundled colonnettes and the spreading,
canopy of the vault above,
of adjacent sections of rectangular bays" (Calkins 148).
The diatonic scale, when compared to other types of musical scales, is far superior as a melodic and harmonic resource, as it has the highest number of consonant intervals, and greatest number of major and minor triads. It also only has one tritone (this is considered the Devil's chord), where others have two or more (Milne).
On the North Rose, in the center is Mary with baby Jesus. Around her on the outside are kings of Judea, thought to be her ancestors, and beyond them are the 12 minor prophets. This teaches the history behind God's story of redemption, and is just one example of how each aspect of Chartres was a "vehicle of education" (KhanAcadamy).
This one is another example.
Thinkers like Aristotle and Ploto were instrumental in this time period and for the people of Chartres. People of their day interpreted their writings and put out their own commentaries.
7 Liberal Arts
"There were schools attached to cathedrals. The school at Chartres was of this kind. These were run and supported, until the early 12th c., by the local bishop. Their focus was on the schooling of local clergy, those would be indirect service to the bishop, as well as male children of significant families" (Ellard 7).
Increasing realism in sculpture = a move away from the idea that naturalism in religious art is a dangerous distraction from the spiritual message of that art" (Wilson 3).
"The forms used by God to create the universe were used by architects to impart beauty and perfection to their cathedrals. A properly designed cathedral would invoke the perfection and beauty of God's creation, though nothing created by man could match God's creation" (Wilson 19).
This is the all-encompassing discipline as, for the Chartrians, all of the other ones tie into God and who he is.
Virgin Mary
This whole cathedral is dedicated to the mother of God, mainly because it houses a
, or holy artifact, which is a piece of cloth believed to have been worn by Mary when she gave birth to Jesus. She was seen as the "protector of the city," and "many miracles were believed to have been caused by her relics" (Calkins 152).
On the left here, the jambs from North portal were created post fire in 1194. They are more representational than the other, earlier ones which were more like celery. They have more emotion, and have more realistic figures under their robes (KhanAcadamy).
Plato's theory of the correspondence between visual and musical proportions and the beauty of the cosmos was carefully studied at the cathedral school. 3=Trinity, and Plato's secular trinity- truth, beauty and goodness (A&C 260)
"3" integrated into Chartres:
ext- 3 story facade, matching
int- 3 corresponding levels, "culminating in the colored light of the
" (A&C 260), which is the top level filled with windows.
-3 semicircle chapels off the
, which is the place with the alter
-each clerestory window= 1 rose + 2 lancet windows
-6 petaled rose in the mosaic in the center of the nave = 1+2+3
3 portals
2 towers
1 rose window
The Pythagoreans believed that "the universe was actually composed of numbers. To know the number of a thing was to know the thing itself. Manipulating or invoking numbers allowed one to manipulate or invoke the powers those numbers belonged to" (Wilson 11).
-Mary is associated with the number 9. "Mary is, as Dante said, 'the square of the trinity'" (A&C 260).
-Chartres has 9 entrance portals, and the original plan had 9 towers.
"Two pointed
were placed beneath a circular
window. The rose was composed of
plate tracery
, flat stones, cut to form, in the overall design, a series of petallike circles around a central roundel that was surrounded by quatrefoils" (Calkins 170).
"It is a qualitative, and not a quantitative, conception of number that lies at the basis of medieval arithmetic. It is thus less a method of reckoning than a way of understanding the nature of number, its properties, and the uniqueness of numerical series obtained by certain constant relationships" (Burckhardt 2).
"The pentagon, having 5 sides and 5 corners, represents the Pentateuch and the 5 wounds of Christ. 5 is the sum of 3 and 2, which represent the Trinity, God's command to love God and one's neighbor, the masculine and feminine (and thus all humanity), manifestation and promise" (Wilson 18).
This Golden Ratio is used all over the cathedral, including these columnar statues, called
, with the dividing line at the elbow of each figure (Wilson 80).
These jambs on the western facade are less representational than the ones on the north side which were created later. They look past us - as if protecting and looking into a spiritual realm. Transitioning our way into this realm (KhanAcadamy).
"Boethius distinguishes 3 kinds of proportions: the arithmetical (1, 2, 3, 4...), geometrical (progresses by constant multiplication), and the harmonic, which unites the preceding 2. This is the most perfect proportion: in music it is made manifest as harmony, and in geometry as the 'golden cut'" (Burckhardt 3)
was a huge consideration and focus in Gothic cathedrals. The main source of light was the sun.
"Robert Grosseteste (c. 1168-1253) was the first major author to demonstrate the renewed interest in optics...He describes a highly original cosmogony that identifies light as the first form of the universe. Light is no longer an analogy, but the actual original form of creation" (Wilson 4).
were a crucial innovation in architecture because "they join the wall at the critical point of thrust, between the clerestory windows, where there is a minimum of stone and a maximum of glass" (A&C 261).
The Notre Dame de Belle Verriere (this window) pictures Mary as the Seat of Wisdom, an ancient motif (Cunningham 216)
-"Christ was born of a virgin. He passed through her body as light passes through a window, completely intact without changing the glass" (Cunningham 217).
-"There were originally 186 stained glass windows in the cathedral, with a total of 22000 sq. ft. of the wall surfaces made of glass" (Wilson 76)
"The sun, in addition to being the primary source of luminosity, 'was the efficient cause of coming-to-be on Earth and 'regulating the seasons, brought about rains, and had a role in human generation' because of the nature of its movement through the heavens" (Wilson 30).
The sun allowed interpretation of the stained glass, much like God gives us understanding of his Word.
The Chartrians saw the cosmos as a single entity. "There is only one," and "All that is corporeal or incorporeal, exists as one because God is one" (Ellard 102).
Williams of Conches said, "I take away nothing from God; all that is in the world, except evil, was made by God....studying the cosmos scientifically does not remove God or theology from the picture. It is, rather, another way of praising God and learning about God" (Ellard 21).

Williams of Conches (a scientist and thinker of the 12th c.) said, "the constellations are not to be censured... To believe that [they] confer good or ill health and consequently long or short life is not heretical; what is to be condemned is the belief that they confer wealth, power, and the like, for these are due to free will, chance, or the gift of God" (Ellard 19).
"Following ancient tradition, Dante, in his 'Convivio', compares the seven liberal arts to the seven planets, grammar corresponding to the moon, logic to Mercury, rhetoric to Venus, arithmetic to the sun, music to MArs, geometry to Jupiter, and astronomy to Saturn. The creators of the Royal Door of Chartres were certainly aware of this correspondence" (Burckhardt 1).
On the
, or triangular recessed part of the
(or doorway), on the left, the signs of the zodiac are portrayed.
"These belong to the unchanging heaven of fixed stars and thus represent, the kingdom of the Divine Spirit, to Whom this door, with its representation of the ascension of Christ, is dedicated. The seven planets, on the other hand, govern the world of the soul. And Mary is the human soul in all its perfection" (Burckhardt).
"From [the signs of the zodiac] one learns to what extent the course of human existence depends upon the heavens: in seedtime and harvest; [for] the heavens, in their cycle, bring heat after cold, dry after wet, and thus keep life in being" (Burckhardt 1).
"The central component of the Chartrian school of thought is its strong commitment to Plato and his Neoplatonic interpreters as the doctrines of the Church, was most exalted. Platonic metaphysics served as the central lens for interpreting reality on the physical and metaphysical level" (Ellard 9).
"In 1141, the year that Thierry became the chancellor at Chartres, construction was begun on the West facade of Chartres. In the stone on the
(the layered arches filled with sculpture) of the right (South) doors were carved representatives of the seven liberal arts" (Ellard 10).
The Chartrians showed a holistic view of their religion by incorporating it into every other aspect of life and thinking.
"Philosophy has two main instruments, namely intellect and expression" -Thierry (Burckhardt 2).
Chartres is the manifestation of both intellect and expression!
They also are not just looking past you. Some are looking down, others like Abraham (2nd from left) look up to an angel. This shows that the spiritual realm is around us, but they beckon us into the history of the gospel (KhanAcadamy).
"The cathedral is a place of spiritual action. It is said to possess the power to transform men, to transmute them into a higher spiritual state, just as the alchemists would transmute base metal into gold" (Westwood 22).
"Moving to the middle point where the transepts cross the nave, the pilgrim was supposed to receive the full alchemical force from the luminous light emanating from the three stained glass rose windows" (Westwood 22)
The relic was one of the few things that survived the fires, which made it even more mysterious, however, "the pilgrim came not to worship Our Lady the Virgin, nor to kneel in obedience, but rather to find awareness through her, to replenish spiritual energy and refresh the soul" (Westwood 22).
"If the pilgrim experienced the entire sensuousness of the cathedral, it would be because the body's senses had apprehended all the musical and geometrical proportions and all the numbers and lines expressed in the building's interior" (Westwood 22).
"There is a tendency in modern times for life to be divided into strictly separated categories...These distinctions, which are second nature to us even in childhood, were not as numerous or as strict in the medieval European understanding of life" (Wilson 1).
We like to think that as contemporary people, nine centuries ahead of the High Gothic age, that we are more advanced from them. Maybe, however, there is a lot we can learn from the way they interwove different areas of study into one way of life.

Hannah Seidle, box 405
Lit/Arts 1, Ebersole.
(Chartres: Cathedral Plan)
(clerestory lancets #89, 90)
(West facade)
(N Portal, central door: left jamb)
(Cathedral Plan: interior nave cross-section and interior nave elevation)
(interior view of the nave toward the apse)
(South side; tower and buttresses)
(Notre-Dame de la Belle Verriere)
(Astronomical Clock)
(West facade; royal portal)
(West facade; right portal)
(South Rose Window with Lancets)
(exterior view of the right side and apse from southeast)
(North portal, central door left jamb)
("Sancta Comisia")
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