France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres
The cathedral of Chartres is the best-preserved example of pure Gothic architecture in Europe. Its stained glass windows are simply splendid.




Though the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is known to everyone, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres is beloved deeply by those who know it because of its harmonious architecture and its splendid stained-glass windows (map).

Built mostly between 1194 and 1220 over the foundations of four earlier churches, the cathedral of Chartres is the purest and best-preserved example of a French medieval Gothic cathedral.

The cathedral of Chartres is open every day from 08:30 am to 19:30 (7:30 pm) for free (donations accepted). There are small fees for visiting the crypt and the tower and roof.

Of course you must see the church's pure Gothic architecture, to marvel at its splendid stained-glass windows, to walk its medieval labyrinth, and, if you choose, to attend mass.

The labyrinth, set into the floor of the nave, dates from about 1200. Made of flagstones and black marble, it has never been restored. Normally it is covered by chairs, but the chairs are sometimes removed, usually on Fridays between the end of Lent and the end of summer, and sometimes on other occasions. It may be covered with chairs if worship needs require it, so check before you go if you want to walk the labyrinth. When we visited, a number of people had come specifically to walk the labyrinth.

The exterior of the cathedral is also fascinating, with many of its carvings and statues reflecting the people and themes of the stained glass. Be sure to walk around the outside, as all three portals present intricate and interesting statuary.

Getting There

Customarily (and easily) visited on a day-trip from Paris, the town of Chartres has now added a strong inducement to stay overnight: Chartres en lumières, a splendid, beautifully-done artistic illumination of the town's historic monuments performed from early April until early October. More...

  Stained Glass, Chartres, France
  Stained glass window...

If you have a pair of binoculars or a digital camera with a telephoto lens, take them to Chartres, and you will love being able to examine the great, lofty window scenes in detail.


Audio tours are available for a fee, and the cathedral has a souvenir and bookshop, proceeds of which help to maintain this historic monument.

Excellent guided tours of the cathedral are offered in English and French, and a tour is necessary if you want all the lore on medieval construction, the eventful history of the church, and on the meaning of the stories that are told in the colored glass.

You can also take a guided tour of the crypt, and there's even a tour that takes you 200 steps up one of the towers to the exterior parapets and beneath the vast roof. More...

A Short History

The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres has stood here for nearly a thousand years. For most of that time, it was the heart and soul of the town of Chartres. But it barely escaped complete destruction at least twice in its long history, and is now undergoing an extensive renovation and cleaning that is controversial. More...

Stained Glass Windows

Chartres en lumières

Tower & Roof Tour

Crypt Tour

History of the Cathedral

What to See & Do in Chartres

Hotels in Chartres

Restaurants in Chartres

Transport for Chartres

Tourist Information

About Chartres

Day-trips from Paris


Paris Girls Secret Society, the new novel by Tom Brosnahan


Cathedral Notre-Dame de Chartres, France

Above, La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres.

Below, Carving of Abraham rocking three souls (as in the spiritual, Rock a My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham), south portal. A similar image is found in the west rose window of the cathedral.


  Abraham, Chartres cathedral



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