Chartres Cathedral Stained
With the exception of the Romanesque lancets
of the west façade and the window of Notre-Dame de la Belle
Verrière reset in the south choir, most of the glazing of the
176 windows was accomplished between around 1200 and 1235.
Restorations have been carried out
continuously since the 14th century, with important campaigns
in the 19th and 20th centuries, including that undertaken by
Nicolas Coffetier, with the assistance of Louis-Charles-Auguste
Steinheil, from 1868.
The windows of the choir hemicycle, the west
façade and the transepts display coherent iconographic
The five windows of the hemicycle are united
by a Marian theme, appropriate to the dedication of the
cathedral, and comprise the Annunciation, the
Visitation and the Virgin and Child flanked by the prophets who
foretold the Virgin Birth.
Annunciation - photo
The glass programmes of the west façade and transepts echo the sculptural
iconography of their respective portals.
On the façade are the 12th-century lancets of the Tree of Jesse, the Nativity
and the Passion and above them the west rose with the Last Judgement.
In the north transept rose the Old Testament is represented by the 12 kings of
Judah and 12 prophets. In the central lancet below, St Anne is depicted carrying the infant Mary,
with Solomon and Aaron, and to the left a similar regal and sacerdotal pairing, David and
The south transept glazing is on a New Testament theme. In the rose
window is a representation of the Apocalypse; Evangelists and prophets, and the
Virgin holding the Christ Child, occupy the lancets below.
Rose Window - photo
Thus the Old Testament is portrayed as the support of the New; the four
Evangelists ride on the shoulders of the four Major Prophets: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and
The north rose was donated by the royal house, whose coats of arms (the
fleur-de-lis of Louis IX, and the castles of his mother, Blanche of Castile), are prominently
displayed in the mosaic grounds. Pierre Mauclerc, Comte de Dreux, donated the south rose where his
coats of arms appear in the tracery.
The series of hagiographical windows in the nave, choir and ambulatory may have
been financed by a less exalted class of donors, many of them guilds, or they may depict the trades
as a strategy of clerical control. Depicted in the windows on the south side of the nave are St
John the Evangelist, St Mary Magdalene, the Good Samaritan and the Death of the Virgin. Their
counterparts on the north side, Noah (carpenters), St Lubin (inn keepers), St Eustace (furriers),
St Joseph (money changers) and St Nicholas (apothecaries), show variety in format and style, as
well as in iconography. They may date from 1200–15 and presumably demonstrate different workshop
traditions from a variety of regions.
Magdalene Window - photo
Grodecki linked the Lubin, Nicholas and Noah windows to the same workshop, which
specialized in vigorous well-modelled figures and expressive compositions. He also identified
the classicizing work of the artist of the St Eustace window with windows in the church at
Saint-Quentin (Aisne) and Laon Cathedral. Caviness has linked the Joseph window, with its
sophisticated medallion design and ornament, to a workshop producing glass at the cathedrals
of Sens and Canterbury.
Chartres Cathedral, ambulatory apse,
Charlemagne window (detail), showing scenes from…The windows of the choir aisles and ambulatory
(c. 1215–35), which include scenes from the lives of Charlemagne, St Thomas Becket, St Thomas
the Apostle, St Stephen, St Andrew, St James, St Martin, St Silvester, St Nicholas and St
Germaine, are, by contrast, relatively homogeneous. The glass painters appear to have cooperated
closely on site, which resulted in a ‘Chartrain style’: a clear, predictable language that is
less a regional product than an amalgam of traditions welded together by the unifying exigencies
of corporate patronage.
The single exception concerns a group that Delaporte associated with the
workshop of the St Chéron Master in the ambulatory windows of SS Catherine and Margaret, St
Remigius, SS Simon and Jude, St Pantaleon and St Germaine. Grodecki later redefined this dry,
linear approach to art as one of the progressive tendencies of the 1230s, destined to emerge as the
dominant Parisian style of the mid-13th century.