The cathedral’s oldest areas are situated in the crypt, which is a 33.55 meter deep Celtric well. During the middle ages, the well was believed to possess miraculous virtues. It was filled and concealed during the mid of 17th century. This was prior to its rediscovery and restoration towards the beginning of 20th century.
The building of the first cathedral was in the mid 4th century after which it was named Aventi cathedral. This was in reference to its first bishop in the city. The sanctuary underwent destruction by visigothic raids when Hunald sacked the city. This was followed by another building being erected on the same site but the Viking incursions burnt it.
After this, the order from the bishop was for a larger chapel to be constructed. Certain parts of the building remained and one of those that remained is the current shrine. It was not until 876 that this sanctuary began to be a crucial pilgrimage site.
This was after King Charles, who was Charlemagne’s grandson offered the cathedral that holy relic called “Sancta Camisa”. The cloth came from Constantinople is one that had become one of Charlemagne’s property, and he had preserved it. Traditions claim that the veil was a shirt that was worn by Mary during Annunciation.
Unfortunate, Chartres continues to experience a disaster after another. In 962, there was a war between Duke of Normandy, Richard 1st, and Thibault le Tricheur, and this led to the burning down of the third cathedral. As a result, the forth sanctuary was constructed and in September 1020, it was destroyed by fire.
Immediately, renovations started. Bishop Fulbert constructed the lower church using the Romanesque style starting from 1020 to 1024. This can be seen up to date. The consecration of the Romansque cathedral happened in 1037 when Fulbert had already died.
Chartres city was destroyed by a great fire in 1134 but the Romansque cathedral was not affected. However, the building was extended by utilizing the free space that existed at the nave’s front.
Between 1134 and 1160, the current façade belonging to Chartres cathedral was constructed and doe the start, the North tower was built. The royal portal was built from 1142 to 1160 while the South Tower as added together with its spire. With regard to the North Tower, people called it the new bell tower.
The reason is that it contained tow levels only. The fire that broke out in 1194 did not destroy the crypt, the western façade or its tower. Treasure which was the veil belonging to the Virgin Mary was believed to have gotten lost before being found intact.
The whole scenario was seen as a sign of a miracle one that signified that The Virgin Mary was wishing for a church that was larger, for her relic.
The renovation happened to coincide with a building momentum that was impressive and was felt everywhere. In France, more constructions sites were erected in order for the old cathedrals that features the Gothic style could be extended, decorated, and restored.
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