Stained Glass At Chartres Cathedral

Back to our trip. The thing that really grabs your attention inside Chartres Cathedral is the stained glass. Most of the windows date to the 12th and 13th Centuries and have been scrupulously preserved.

rose window at chartres
Rose window at Chartres.


rose window at chartres

These are called rose windows, for obvious reasons. They are so high up it is difficult to see the detail, but I found it hard to tear my eyes away just from the shapes and colors.

stained glass, chartres
Telling a story with stained glass.


stained glass, chartres
The three kings.

Even more than the sculptures, the windows are like picture books telling the stories of the bible: the infancy of Christ, the passion and resurrection, etc. The amount of detail is incredible. As I’ve said, I am not a religious person, but you don’t have to be a believer to see the artistry here.

Medieval craftsmen:
Medieval craftsmen at work, I think I see carpenters and smiths, hard to tell what the others are.


chartres stained glass
Stone cutters at work.

I think the windows I loved best showed the medieval trades at work, including stone cutters and masons working on the cathedral. One theory is that these windows recognize the contributions of the guilds to the construction of Chartres cathedral, but many historians discount this.

chartres cathedral
The ceiling is 121′ high, so plenty of head room.

The vaulted ceilings, 121 feet high (37 meters), are effective at making me feel very small, something I don’t often feel. A cleaning project has been partially completed. There is a dramatic difference between the gleaming stone that has been cleaned and the grimy ones that have not.

chartres cathedral

I have to say I really like stained glass, religious or not. My favorite piece of garden art is a metal sunflower that has been fitted with pieces of stained glass. Sadly this piece has taken some knocks over the years and is missing some parts. Also the store where we bought it is closed.  What about you – are you fond of stained glass?

Upcoming posts: planting tulips in containers, plus our death-defying drive from Chartres to Amboise.


45 Comments on “Stained Glass At Chartres Cathedral

  1. Yes, I love it too. I briefly lived in a rented flat with stained glass at the top of each pane in a huge bay window. The effect was stunning in the morning sunlight!

  2. Yes, I love the stained glass in those old cathedrals. I also adore the high vaulted ceilings with their arches. I never manage to take very good pictures of the stained glass though. They never come out right for some reason. These pictures you have posted are really wonderful.

  3. One of the distinguishing features of French stained glass is the intensity of the cobalt blue as evidenced here so beautifully, Can’t recall but somewhere in my four years of french in high school, we learned there was something special about the chemical used to stain the glass in that region, That explains why that intensity of blue is seen only in Paris. Take another look at some of these windows and see how important the intensity of the blue is in pulling ogg the whole aesthetic.

    Have a bowl of bouillabaisse for me please, Jason.

    • I did notice the blue was unusually luminous. If I were still in France I’d be delighted to have some bouillabaisse, but as I’m in Chicago now I’ll have to wait.

  4. The first window of craftsmen above is cloth makers – dying, spinning, weaving, etc. I love that they put these scenes of everyday life into stained glass windows in the cathedral.

  5. I am amazed by the contrast you show with clean vs uncleaned stone – stunning! I love stained glass and sometimes get frustrated when I can’t see the details – guess that is what art repro books are for. Whenever I get to France, this will be at the top of my list – thank you!

    • the ‘ cleaned ‘ stone is actually white paint over plaster . The Cathedral is being re painted fully for the first time in over 500 years and is peculiar to many people as the interior now looks like a brand new building that could be one of your American Cathedrals of the early 20th century rather than that of an 800 year old building in France

  6. Wow! What a difference in the cleaned and not yet cleaned stone that’s what happens when you burn candles and light incense for a few centuries. Love stained glass! Patrick’s comment made me wonder and I found the following:
    “Manganese was easier to find and closer to home, for the construction of Chartres, and so they mixed it with cobalt (which came from father eastern regions of Europe) to lessen the financial burden caused by the need for so many stained glass windows.” (Manganese and cobalt are two of the metal oxides that are used to color glass) The resulting color, closer to azure than the darker cobalt became known as Chartres Blue.

  7. Our neighbour for years was a stained glass artist and I was always amazed by the work she did. Hubby and I took a class in stained glass from her and made an insert for our front door. Knowing how challenging it was gives me a great appreciation for the artistry involved in the beautiful windows of the cathedral.

    • We have a friend who gave up a job as an engineer to take over a stained glass business. It’s something I would love to know more about, maybe when I’m retired I can take a class.

  8. Wow, absolutely stunning Jason. Judy took some amazing photos on your trip (and you, if you were the camera person part of the time). Thanks for sharing all these great views!

  9. Those shots just knocked me over…the stained glass is amazing! I would just love to sit there and take it all in! I am such a fan of stained glass…what I like about it is that it is an art form that like you said dates so far back. It is what I like to call timeless art! Thank you for sharing this beauty!

  10. I see you had interesting trip, Jason!I love stained glass as well. I often watch the church ceilings and windows when I come there and always the stained glass surprise me.

  11. I craft stained glass, so seeing such exquisite work is amazing to me. Judy needs to look into HDR for these images. If she learns it, she will be astounded in the depth of the detail.

    • I asked Judy about HDR, she said she would look into it. She wondered if my wordpress settings might be reducing the resolution of the photographs I post.

  12. To think that those vivid colors have withstood centuries of light makes me almost a little embarrassed of the cheap stuff I buy for around the house. Quality craftsmanship really is timeless…. I just wish I could afford it!

  13. I am not a religious person either, but I love church architecture and stained glass. A trip to Chartres would be a thrill for me.

  14. I”ve been trying to find information about the names of the glassmakers and or artists who were involved in all this work and can find nothing. It’s almost as if there is a concerted effort to keep those names undisclosed. Anybody know?

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