Thursday, January 28, 2010


Presentation By Brittney Pym
Winter Term
Gothic Art History

My research paper will focus on the meaning of the iconography of the north rose window at Chartres Cathedral. I will explore the link between the Old and New Testament that the window gives. I will also look briefly at the color choice and how the windows were produced.
View of the north transept at Chartres Cathedral, Chartres France.
Rose window approx. 43’ in diameter

Some History

The term Gothic was coined by the Florentine historiographer Giorgio Vasari. The term Gothic means barbaric. Many in the later centuries thought that the Gothic style was dark and hideous. However anybody who has seen a Gothic Cathedral knows this to be untrue. The art of stain glass windows reached its height during this time. With the help of flying buttress stain glass windows became an important part of the cathedral. Using deep hues of red and blue a stain glass transforms the sunlight streaming in and creates an atmosphere of the divine. The north rose window at Chartres Cathedral does just that.
Even before the Gothic Cathedral was built the church was always a site of pilgrimage. The church housed the Sancta Camisa, a tunic that is once said to of belonged to the Virgin.
Chartres Cathedral has under gone several changes throughout history due to the need to rebuild after many fires.
However the current building was built after a fire in June of 1194 destroyed everything but the west towers, fa├žade and crypt.
The immense north rose window and lancets at Chartres Cathedral were a gift from the Queen of France, Blanche of Castile, in 1220.
During the middle ages the Cathedral was used as a market place, with different portals functioning as store fronts. Textiles were sold in the north while vegetables were sold in the south.
The Cathedral still remains a true Gothic Cathedral and was placed on the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.

In the middle lancet contains an image of Saint Anne holding the baby Virgin. While the images on either side are of Saint Anne are four of Christ’s Old Testament ancestors, Melchizedek, David, Solomon, and Aaron.
Lancet B 7.43 by 1.61 meters
Lancet C 7.46 by 1.58 meters
Lancet D 7.44 by 1.71 meters
Lancet E 7.41 by 1.60 meters
Lancet F 7.41 by 1.58 meters

The twelve square panels contain the images of kings from the Old Testament, including David at the top with Solomon on the right side (when looking at the window)

In the rounded center sits the enthroned Virgin and Childe. This center calls to mind the detailed embellishments that were often found on the cover of manuscripts, with jewels. Surrounding the Virgin are the four doves of the Holy Spirit and eight angels.

Royal motifs of yellow castles on a red background and yellow fleurs-de-iris (three petaled iris) speak to the royal patronage. These motifs can be seen in the lower corners of this picture.
Yet these motifs also led to the importance of Christ's heritage, just as the rest of the window does. The link between the Old and New Testament seems to be one of heritage. This link is reminding the viewer of Christ's own royal heritage and the lineage of Mary.