The cathedral's builders: the trades

Built in a surprisingly short time, Chartres cathedral is the work of a horde of anonymous builders, masons, stone cutters, carpenters and sculptors.

Chartres cathedral was built in record time. It is said that only one generation was enough to build this jewel of Gothic art, that is to say less than 26 years. While we know the name of the bishop who started the building after the fire of 1194 - Bishop Renaud de Mousson - the builders themselves remain unknown.


The signatures of certain builders can be found in the windows of the cathedral

Like a mediaeval photo library, the cathedral is rich in teachings on these crafts and the workmen and builders of exception who created it. During your visit, take time to look at a few signatures in the stained-glass windows.

In the stained-glass window known as The Sylvestre, in the ambulatory, the masons are building the cathedral, while the stone-cutter and the "imagier" shape the stone and the statues. What is an imagier? While the sculptor creates decorations, the imagier sculpts the human form. All the great statues in the portals are their work.

Admire the stained glass of Saint-Chéron, also located in the ambulatory, and you will find these sculptors, imagiers and stonecutters again, working on statues thought to be those of the portals of the cathedral.

In the stained glass window of Saints Savinien and Potentien, the medallion on the right shows a mason at work. This scene is taken up by the scenographers and illuminators in the south rose of the cathedral. (see Chartres en lumières).

Notice first of all the naiveté of the treatment of the character: wearing a "cale", the traditional cap of the time, he is small compared to his construction. As for the construction itself, this testifies to the culmination of the work of the builders in the Gothic art - the flying buttresses are present and the walls have high, wide windows.


Wood: an essential element in the construction of the cathedral

The technical prowess of the stone workers could not have been possible without the carpenters' work. Vital to the initial construction, they worked together with the masons by erecting the scaffolding, and making the formwork and the supports.

As you walk around inside the cathedral, find the window of Saint Julien l'Hospitalier in the ambulatory, not far from the relic of Saint Mary, and you can see these carpenters installing the roof of a house with their tools, the axe and the plane.