Today we woke up at 7:00am and left Paris for Tours, stopping by the Chartres Cathedral on our way. We aimlessly walked around by ourselves in the Cathedral but then managed to get a public tour with Malcolm Miller, a famous historian on Chartres. He has been giving tours at the Cathedral for 50 years and was phenomenal. His commentary was very witty (Japanese groups kept walking past our tour and he commented, “I believe that Japan is too crowded so they get shipped to Chartres every summer.”) and really brought meaning to what we were looking at.
It’s a gothic cathedral with two large rose windows and buttresses surrounded the outside of the cathedral. The buttresses allow more support, similar to ends that hold up books on a bookshelf. This allows the cathedral to be built higher and higher, allowing more light in. He also discussed the ornate stained glass windows (which were removed during World War II for safety) and the detailed biblical stories they told. The windows were paid for by the nobility and merchants; in some windows you can see images of shoemakers and bakers that sponsored it. He also talked about the relic of the Chartres Cathedral which attracted people to make the pilgrimage: the supposed clothes of Virgin Mary when she gave birth to Jesus. Unlike the Shroud of Turin, there has been testing on it and it is dated from the 1st century. We also learned random facts, such that cathedral means throne or seat, referencing that a cathedral is the seat of a bishop and crypt which comes from the Latin word crypta meaning hidden or private (cryptic, cryptogram).
I get the impression that you can walk through these places and just go through the motions and take pictures of random things, but not really understand what you’re looking at. Getting a tour really made the trip to Chartres meaningful.
About 15 times today, I was really happy I took AAH 210 (Art and Architecture history) last semester. The course gave a brief history of art, starting from the ancient Egyptians to modern art, so it was impossible to remember everything. But the tour director would mention something and me and another girl who took the class would then remember reading about it last semester. Pretty neat.
After the cathedral, we grabbed lunch and then continued on to Tours.
After driving most of the afternoon, our bus arrived in Tours, France just before dinner. We all got together for dinner again and then a few of us got crepes, my new favorite desert.