The Cathedral of Chartres (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres) is located in France. The Cathedral is traditionally discussed as an example of the French High Gothic style, and the history of this building is associated with the 12th -13th centuries. The Cathedral of Chartres is famous for its remarkable architectural structure and unique stained glass panels and windows.
The Belle Verriere Window of the Cathedral of Chartres is one of the most interesting examples of the Cathedral’s stained glasses. The window consists of two parts which are dated from different centuries.
The window can be observed at the south side of the Cathedral, and its composition is made from twenty-four specific segments.
The upper part of the window was made during the 12th century, and the researchers accentuate it could be located in the earlier Romanesque building destroyed by the fire when the other part of the composition was created after the Cathedral’s reconstruction in order to meet the requirements of the Gothic style.
The research on the particular features of the Belle Verriere Window of the Cathedral of Chartres was traditionally conducted in relation to the problem of the glass or window reconstruction with references to the peculiarities of the Romanesque and Gothic styles.
The most important investigations on the issue of the chronology and characteristic features of the glass design are developed by Frankl and Connick in the 20th century. The most interesting works of the 21st century are provided by Harris, Klein, and Horst Janson and Anthony Janson.
Harris focuses on the Belle Verriere Window in the context of the history of the stained glass; Kleiner, Horst Janson and Anthony Janson present general discussions of the design of the Cathedral of Chartres and its windows from the perspective of the history of art and design.
The specific features of the stained glasses in relation to the play of light and shadow with references to the Belle Verriere Window of the Cathedral of Chartres are discussed in the article “La Belle Verriere of Infinite Variety” written by Charles Connick and first published in 1932.
The researcher pays attention to such characteristics of stained glasses as the possibility to change colors under the influence of sunlight. Thus, various lights affect the changes and vibrations in colors and tones, accentuating this or that part of the composition.
The public’s perception of the central figure of the Virgin Mary can change according to different lights. In his work, Connick also emphasizes the importance of flanking buttresses for creating the complex picture. Connick’s article is important for discussing the art impact of the stained glasses containing the definite religious meaning with references to the Belle Verriere Window of the Cathedral of Chartres1.
In his article ‘The Chronology of the Stained Glass in Chartres Cathedral” which was published in 1963, Paul Frankl focuses on the particular features of the glass and windows’ reconstruction provided in the Cathedral during several centuries.
The reconstruction was organized in several stages, and it was caused by the fact of destroying the Romanesque cathedral in 1194. The researcher states that only four windows could be used in the further design of the cathedral which was worked out according to the principles of the Gothic style. The Belle Verriere Window was saved as the part of the Romanesque apse, and it was used in the design of the Gothic Cathedral2.
Providing the complete chronological history of using the stained glasses in the Cathedral of Chartres, Frankl also concentrates on the history of Belle Verriere Window’s reconstruction. This glass was inserted in Lancet 14 in the south part of the Cathedral.
Regarding the window’s design, the researcher focuses on the fact of adding such components to the glass as kneeling angels and the pictures of Temptations of Christ in order to respond to the significant dimensions of the traditional Gothic window. Frankl also pays attention to the peculiarities of combining the principles of Romanesque style with the elements of the Gothic architecture and design3.
The idea to discuss the stained glasses not only as the objects of art and religion but also as the things depicting the philosophical notions is developed by Harris in her article “Stained Glass Window as Thing: Heidegger, the Shoemaker Panels, and the Commercial and Spiritual Economies of Chartres Cathedral in the Thirteenth Century” which was published in 2008.
The researcher analyzes all the examples of the stained glasses in the Cathedral of Chartres concentrating on the correlation of their symbolic significance with the aspects of Heidegger’s phenomenological philosophy. From this point, the Belle Verriere Window can be discussed as the image within the image which has the features of the cultic traditions.
The conclusions made by Harris are based on the analysis of the elements of the window’s central part created in the 12th century and of the surrounding components made by the masters of the thirteenth century. The researcher’s work is significant for discussing the religious and philosophical meaning of this piece of art with references to the history of creating its later components which depict the definite rituals4.
In spite of the fact today a lot of information about the particular features of the Belle Verriere Window’s design is presented in the works oriented to the history of the Western art in general, the authors of these books provide the important details on the window’s design with references to the history of the stained glass and based on the proper research in the field.
Thus, in his work, Kleiner focuses on the effects of flying buttresses and such elements of the design as the depiction of the young Virgin Mary on the red background with the dove of the Holy Spirit as the variant of interpreting the tradition5. In their turn, Horst Janson and Anthony Janson concentrate on the elements of painting with references to the Belle Verriere Window of the Cathedral of Chartres as painting with glass and painting on glass6.
To conclude, it is important to note that the mentioned researches and works do not provide the complete discussion of the particular features of the Belle Verriere Window of the Cathedral of Chartres in relation to all the aspects and details of the object.
That is why, it is necessary to work out the further research in order to discuss the issues associated with the point that the Belle Verriere Window of the Cathedral of Chartres is the culturally and religiously significant art of design.
From this point, it is possible to follow the approach used by Anne Harris in her research and examine the components of the window’s pictures as the objects of the religious tradition and cultic elements with references to their colors and composition.
Thus, the fact of combining the elements of the Romanesque and Gothic style to present the complex composition of the Belle Verriere Window should be discussed from the perspective of adding not only new elements to the design but also new meanings to the whole composition.
Connick, Charles J. “La Belle Verriere of Infinite Variety”. Stained Glass Bulletin 27, no. 5 (1932): 1-6.
Frankl, Paul. “The Chronology of the Stained Glass in Chartres Cathedral”. The Art Bulletin 45, no. 4 (1963): 301-322.
Harris, Anne F. “Stained Glass Window as Thing: Heidegger, the Shoemaker Panels, and the Commercial and Spiritual Economies of Chartres Cathedral in the Thirteenth Century”. Different Visions: A Journal of New Perspectives on Medieval Art 1, no. 9 (2008): 1-30.
Janson, Horst Woldemar, and Anthony F. Janson. History of Art: The Western Tradition. USA: Prentice Hall Professional, 2004.
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective. USA: Cengage Learning, 2008.
- Charles J. Connick, “La Belle Verriere of Infinite Variety”, Stained Glass Bulletin 27, no. 5 (1932).
- Paul Frankl, “The Chronology of the Stained Glass in Chartres Cathedral”, The Art Bulletin 45, no. 4 (1963), 319.
- Paul Frankl, “The Chronology of the Stained Glass in Chartres Cathedral”, 319.
- Anne F. Harris, “Stained Glass Window as Thing: Heidegger, the Shoemaker Panels, and the Commercial and Spiritual Economies of Chartres Cathedral in the Thirteenth Century”, Different Visions: A Journal of New Perspectives on Medieval Art 1, no. 9 (2008).
- Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective (USA: Cengage Learning, 2008), 349.
- Horst Woldemar Janson and Anthony F. Janson, History of Art: The Western Tradition (USA: Prentice Hall Professional, 2004).