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Why Chartres?

Chartres cathedral is a monument of true exception. Discover the five reasons that make it unique in the world.

1# The first UNESCO World Heritage cathedral

In 1979 Chartres cathedral was classified as an outstanding monument, to be safeguarded for humanity, at the same time as the Mont Saint-Michel, Vézelay and the Château of Versailles. It is the first large Gothic cathedral to have received this worldwide accolade. Chartres beat Notre-Dame de Paris and Notre-Dame d'Amiens, which were not declared UNESCO World Heritage sites until 1981!

 

2# A unique ensemble of stained glass windows

If you want to learn about the art of stained glass, Chartres cathedral is the only place to start. Its glass has a surface area of nearly 2,600 square metres, which may be a record for a single religious building. Chartres is the only cathedral in the world to have preserved as much of its original stained glass, from the romantic and Gothic periods, although it also boasts some beautiful more modern sections. Take the free guided tour of the cathedral to find out more.

3# Architectural unity

Constructed in the early days of the classical Gothic period, the main body of the cathedral was completed in less than 26 years. This explains its architectural unity, which is evident when walking inside, through the nave. Chartres cathedral was the first building of this size where the use of external flying buttresses made it possible to lighten the structure. The elegance and balance of the vault resting on its solid pillars have attracted artists from all over the world down the ages, such as Rodin, who was inspired by Chartres to sculpt The Prayer.

 

4# The three carved portals

Admirably preserved, almost untouched by the French Revolution, the portals of Chartres cathedral are rich in sculptures and statues. The royal portal will catch your eye in particular. The statues, fixed in eternity, are a magnificent example of this art of transition between the Roman and the Gothic, as it existed for a very short time in the middle of the 12th century. The north and south portals, built in the first half of the 13th century, testify to the elegance of this era.

 

5# A place with many different facets

Whether your visit is spiritual or cultural, Notre-Dame de Chartres leaves no-one unimpressed. The crypt, of exceptional dimensions, and a labyrinth are still visited today by pilgrims and visitors. The cathedral also houses many architectural treasures, towers, extraordinary attic spaces and one of the widest and the highest transepts in the world.

You will understand just what a jewel of architecture Chartres cathedral is, to be discovered in the heart of the Eure-et-Loir département. Many events take place all year round here - find out more on our diary pages.