Cathedral De Chartres Analysis Essay

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right: Labyrinth at Chartres, 1696

The floor labyrinth was laid in 1205, and was used by the monks for walking contemplation. It is still used by pilgrims. There is only one path 964 feet long. At the centre of the labyrinth there used to be a metal plate showing figures of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur, the characters in the classical myth of the Minos labyrinth.

The circumference of the labyrinth is 40 metres (131 feet).

related document:
cathedral labyrinths and mazes in France

portals and tympana

[Note : the French word for tympanum is tympan.]

The three main entrances of Chartres - the West front, the North front and the South front - each have three huge porches. Chartres is impressive in having three separate triple-doorways, complete with statuary, tympanum and archivaults. These three main entrances are on the west front, and the north and south transepts.

At Chartres cathedral, north transept, east side

A : tympanum      B : lintel or architrave
C : archivaults      D : statuary (the statue between the doors is a trumeau)

The tympana provide illustrations to Christian symbolism, the life of Jesus and to the lives of saints.

west facade, typanum on the central door of the royal portal

Here, the statues surrounding Jesus are the symbols of the four evangelists:
Matthew - winged man or angel,
John - eagle,
Mark - winged lion,
Luke - winged ox or bull.

south portal, east (right) tympanum
illustrating good deeds of Saint Martin (to left) and Saint Nicholas (to right)

On one of the typana of the south portal is illustrated good deeds made by Saint Martin (to left) and Saint Nicholas

Lower left: the Roman soldier Martin, on horseback, cuts his military cloak in half. He shares it with a beggar at the gate of Amiens.
Upper left: Martin asleep, with his servant lying on the floor. Jesus appears wrapped in the half cloak Martin had given to the beggar.

Lower right: Nicholas, protector of virgins and origin of Father Christmas, drops a purse containing three dowries into the house of a sick nobleman. His poverty means he must sell his three daughters into prostitution.
Upper right: Sick people visiting the tomb of Saint Nicholas are cured by oils oozing from the tomb.

last judgement tympanum

Several French cathedrals have a Last Judgement tympanum. these include Poitiers, Reims, Bourges, Amiens, Notre Dame de Paris, Conques, Aveyron, Autun, Moissac, Bazas.

Here is the Last judgement tympanum at Chartres cathedral:

Last judgement tympanum on the south portal at Chartres

Here, Jesus is in the centre showing the wounds of the crucifixion (the Passion). He is flanked by Mary and St. John the Evangelist. Above, angels carry the "instruments of Christ's Passion" - cross, crown of thorns, nails, lance, column and whip. Below are souls going to their judgement.

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