Chartres about one hour by train from Paris is a worthwhile overnight stop in order to take in the Chartres en Lumieres which is a sound and light show running from April to September incorporating 24 buildings with the highlight being the magnificent Chartres Cathedral. It was really captivating and I’ve not seen anything quite like it before. Being there near Summer Solstice meant waiting until around 10.30PM for the show. After a commentary in French and English the facade becomes a blaze of colour, figures rising up the towers and you are transported into a magical experience. Each of the other buildings that are lit up offers their own unique show and they are all located within walking distance.
The centre of the city is quite compact. I stayed at the Best Western Monarque Hotel which was lovely. You can walk there from the train station or it’s about 2 minutes in a cab. The hotel has a gorgeous spa where for Euros 15.00 you can spend some time in the pool, hammam, dry sauna and polar plunge. The pool has aqua bikes and massaging jets to work on the muscles after your journey. Or if you need you can book a massage. From the hotel you can meander through some rather nice shopping lanes to restaurants, coffee shops and the Cathedral.
Visiting the inside of the Cathedral you are drawn to the unique glass stained windows, in fact the church contains the world’s largest surviving collection of medieval stained glass from the 13th Century.
Like most Churches it was built on an existing ancient site and in this case it was a Druid shrine of Isis. Some researchers believe it was built in the same proportions as Stonehenge and that both sites are connected through the lei lines. The sacred geometry and symbolism here are astonishing. For example the sun tower is 365 feet representing the days of the year, the moon tower is 28 feet less representing the 28 day month of four 7 day weeks. The names of the architects were never recorded but they were known as the ‘Masters of the Compasses’.
In 876 the church was officially named honouring ‘our lady of Chartres’ and acquired the torn veil believed to have been worn by Mary when she gave birth to Jesus, and from then became a major pilgrimage stop. In 1194 there was a fire and the treasured veil was feared lost. However it was found miraculously unharmed and the people of Chartres organized the rebuilding of the Church.
There is also a Labyrinth which was laid in the floor and appears as a design installed in the paving. The pathway is made of yellowish brown stones and the dividing stones are bluish black. It is considered to be the largest labyrinth ever located in a cathedral and one of the reasons for my visit. After the French Revolution chairs were installed and the Labyrinth was covered up until 1998. Now on most Friday’s the chairs are removed and you are able to walk it. I feel blessed that I was able to experience the Labyrinth with its 28 turns to the centre step by step and connect to the energy where pilgrims have come for a 1000 years!