France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Notre-Dame de Chartres Crypt, France
The largest crypt in France lies under the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Chartres.

Chartres statue, France
Above, Romanesque statue
from west portal, displayed
in the crypt.



 

 

 

The Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Chartres is world famous for its exquisite stained glass windows, its lofty construction, and its large number of intricate and beautiful sculptures.

But underlying the Cathedral and supporting the structure is the crypt—or in fact two crypts. The Fulbert Crypt, which dates from the year 1025, is U-shaped and serves as the foundation of the Cathedral, and thus determined its size. The Saint Lubin Crypt, named in honor of a 6th century bishop, holds the remains of a Carolingian crypt. Its most notable feature is a large column on the original crypt's floor, and you can also see where 18th century excavations re-opened the crypt. Nearby is a well believed to be Celtic.

Guided visits allow you to walk through the crypt. And you may be surprised to find that the crypt has windows, high ceilings, art work, and a number of chapels. It is still actively used for baptisms (with its 12th century baptismal font), and regular masses are celebrated in the various chapels.

The crypt is 220 meters (241 yards) and 5 meters (5.5 yards) wide.

The Saint Clement Chapel contains a 12th century fresco representing various saints and popes, as well as Charlemagne and St. Giles, his confessor. This fresco, though faded with time, offers a fine example of 12th-century art.

Fresco, Chartres cathedral, France
Fresco of Charlemagne, St Giles and other saints
in the cathedral crypt.

The Saint Martin Chapel allows you to see some original statues and columns from the royal (west) portal. It is interesting to see the different styles (Romanesque and Gothic) and to be able to examine them up close.

One of the chapels contains models of several of the cathedrals that were built on this location, and you can see how the construction evolved and changed over the centuries.

The ambulatory, or walkway around the nave forms a continuous processional way. It includes both Romanesque and Gothic chapels, with stained glass from the mid 19th century to the present.

The largest chapel is the Our Lady of the Crypt Chapel. It is here that the reliquary said to contain a fragment of the Virgin's veil (sancta camisa) is located. The story is that Charles the Bald, grandson of Charlemagne, donated the relic to the cathedral in 876, and Notre-Dame de Chartres has long been a place of pilgrimage to the Virgin. During the French revolution, the veil was torn up and distributed to various places, though the largest piece is believed to be in Notre-Dame de Chartres. The chapel also contains a fresco of the Virgin dating to about 1200 and a replica statue of the Virgin, which replaced one that was burned during the French Revolution.

The cathedral offers several guided visits a day to the crypt. Although the visits are in French, when I visited we had a German couple who spoke only a little French, and the guide managed with a combination of French, English, and German. There are also printed information sheets available in various languages.

Tickets are handled via the Crypte Gift shop, just outside the south portal of the cathedral. They may also be available in the cathedral gift shop, and tours convene just outside of the shop. The visit lasts 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the interests of the group and the guide.

Now that you've seen the crypt, consider the other extreme: a guided tour of the cathedral roof! It's equally fascinating and offers great views.

Notre-Dame de Chartres

Stained Glass Windows

History of the Catehdral

Cathedral Roof

Chartres

What to See & Do in Chartres

Trains to Chartres

Day-trips from Paris

Paris Transport

Notre-Dame de Paris

About Paris

 

 


 

Our Lady of the Crypt Chapel, Chartres, France

Above, The Our Lady of the Crypt Chapel.

Below, You enter the crypt from the Baptistry, down stairs into a well-lit space with high ceilings.

 

Entrance to crypt, Chartres, France

 

 

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