Thursday's Child: Chartres Cathedral

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chartres cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries and has had only minor architectural changes since then.  Even most of its stained glass windows remain intact.  The cathedral is perhaps best-known for its ancient labyrinth, which was carved directly into the floor.  Traditionally, labyrinths were built to represent a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Today, they can be used as a spiritual tool, for prayer, meditation or simply peace.

Although our church doesn’t have a permanent labyrinth, every year we borrow a portable one for a week and invite all to walk it.  Whenever I do, I will myself to keep my eyes on the part of the path I’m walking, rather than looking ahead to see where the next bend is or how close I am to the centre.  I think there’s a good metaphor for life in that exercise.  Walking this labyrinth has always been a meditative experience for me.

Last summer when we traveled to France, we had the privilege of visiting Chartres cathedral.  The labyrinth area is often covered with chairs, so I was thrilled to see that the area was clear the day we went.  On our arrival, I reminded my family that I’d like to walk the labyrinth and invited them to join me.  To my delight, both of the girls said they’d accompany me.  (Although Andrew didn’t join us, he took the opportunity to meditate on the stunning stained glass windows that fill the sanctuary.)

What an amazing experience to walk the labyrinth with the girls!  It was probably the most spiritual family experience I’ve had.  In one way it differed from my walks at our church, which I usually do either by myself or with one other walker.  Chartres was full of pilgrims, and we often had to step aside to let others by.  It also wasn’t a silent experience!  But the spiritual movement of taking one step after another, heading toward an inner circle, was exactly the same, and walking the path with my girls made it truly special.  
The labyrinth at Chartres.  Photo used courtesy of labyrinthos.net.


32 comments:

Tasha said...

What stunning photos. That must've been quite an experience.

Joanne said...

How gorgeous! That is awe-inspiring!

Barbara Kloss said...

How beautiful! Thanks for sharing. I particularly love the labyrinth.

Valerie said...

Beautiful photos! I love Cathedrals that are steeped in history.

Carol said...

Beautiful, what stunning shots. The architecture, the windows, just stunning.

Belinda said...

How amazing! It looks absolutely beautiful - what a special time with your girls.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I've never heard of walking labyrinths, but it sounds amazing. And what an incredible cathedral. Gorgeous!

Amy

allieksmith said...

The first picture is breathtaking.. WOW! I would have never guessed the cathedral is in France!

Michelle Teacress said...

I love stained glass windows. How beautiful. :)

Ruth said...

Great pictures Beth (or Andrew?). That's a great story as well - so many great memories you're building with your girls!

Julie said...

Beautiful stained glass.

tenaciouslyyours.com said...

You are speaking to my soul right now. Seeing Chartres Cathedral was one of the most absolutely memorable parts of our trip to Europe. WHAT a monument, really.

Claudia said...

Just stunning, Beth. The cathedral, the memories, the family, the time to be silent...

Reeni said...

This is beautiful! And what a sweet story with a memory to treasure forever.

Janet Johnson said...

What a beautiful angle to capture the cathedral! And I'd never heard of the labyrinth before. Fascinating!

Lydia K said...

I've loved Chartres since I learned about it in Art History in high school. I'd love to visit!

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

What an incredible cathedral! I am so glad you have shared some pictures of it with us.

Barbara said...

Perfectly lovely, Beth. What a wonderful experience for all of you.

shaz said...

Beautiful photos. Sounds like a wonderful experience.

michelangelo in the kitchen said...

What a wonderful tour of the Chartres cathedral This reminded me of my quest as a student to see all the churches and cathedrals around Europe. I love to study French medieval high Gothic cathedrals like the Chartres. The famous labyrinth has been copied all over the world like Grace cathedral in San francisco for its incredible design. Thanks for posting this. Cheers!!!

thelittlespork said...

Wow, these pictures are beautiful. I think I fell in love with the stained glass..

Pacheco Patty said...

I visited Chartres cathedral many years ago and still remember the visual impact of the stained glass windows. What a great experience to share with your girls;-)

Annie's Dish said...

How beautiful! Thanks for sharing with us.

comfortablydomestic.com said...

You've just described a dream day for me. I can't wait to visit Chartes, and hopefully walk the labyrinth. How wonderful that you were able to walk it with your girls.

Sue said...

The stained glass IS stunning! We have a labyrinth nearby, out in a wilderness area. You have inspired me to go walk it very soon(after we return from Yosemite)!
P.S. Next week I will email you about how I switched to a dot-com. Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you.

jillbert said...

Beautiful! I'd love to see Chartres and Mont St Michel too.

Angie's Recipes said...

Amazing architecture! The only church I have ever been to was Kölner Dom/Cologne Cathedral, but I am not sure I saw labyrinth there.
Thank you for sharing this.
Angie

Julie Musil said...

Wow, wow, and wow! Gorgeous.

Al Dente Gourmet said...

Hi Beth, Beautiful shots! Seems quite a wonderful experience.

Aldy.

Sweet And Crumby said...

Such gorgeous to photos. I love to travel through your eyes.

Jo Schaffer said...

Gorgeous! How cool is this?

Have you ever been to St. Chapelle in Paris-- the stained glass is amazing!

Grapefruit said...

I've never heard of a walking Labyrinth. The details on the entrance of the cathedral must have been amazing. Would love to see this one day!

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