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    Ch. 5 - Towers and Portals

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    Chapter 5
    Previous Chapter
    For a first visit to Chartres, choose some pleasant morning when the
    lights are soft, for one wants to be welcome, and the cathedral has
    moods, at times severe. At best, the Beauce is a country none too

    The first glimpse that is caught, and the first that was meant to be
    caught, is that of the two spires. With all the education that
    Normandy and the Ile de France can give, one is still ignorant. The
    spire is the simplest part of the Romanesque or Gothic architecture,
    and needs least study in order to be felt. It is a bit of sentiment
    almost pure of practical purpose. It tells the whole of its story at
    a glance, and its story is the best that architecture had to tell,
    for it typified the aspirations of man at the moment when man's
    aspirations were highest. Yet nine persons out of ten--perhaps
    ninety-nine in a hundred--who come within sight of the two spires of
    Chartres will think it a jest if they are told that the smaller of
    the two, the simpler, the one that impresses them least, is the one
    which they are expected to recognize as the most perfect piece of
    architecture in the world. Perhaps the French critics might deny
    that they make any such absolute claim; in that case you can ask
    them what their exact claim is; it will always be high enough to
    astonish the tourist.

    Astonished or not, we have got to take this southern spire of the
    Chartres Cathedral as the object of serious study, and before taking
    it as art, must take it as history. The foundations of this tower--
    always to be known as the "old tower"--are supposed to have been
    laid in 1091, before the first crusade. The fleche was probably half
    a century later (1145-70). The foundations of the new tower,
    opposite, were laid not before 1110, when also the portal which
    stands between them, was begun with the three lancet windows above
    it, but not the rose. For convenience, this old facade--including
    the portal and the two towers, but not the fleches, and the three
    lancet windows, but not the rose--may be dated as complete about

    Originally the whole portal--the three doors and the three lancets--
    stood nearly forty feet back, on the line of the interior
    foundation, or rear wall of the towers. This arrangement threw the
    towers forward, free on three sides, as at Poitiers, and gave room
    for a parvis, before the portal,--a porch, roofed over, to protect
    the pilgrims who always stopped there to pray before entering the
    church. When the church was rebuilt after the great fire of 1194,
    and the architect was required to enlarge the interior, the old
    portal and lancets were moved bodily forward, to be flush with the
    front walls of the two towers, as you see the facade to-day; and the
    facade itself was heightened, to give room for the rose, and to
    cover the loftier pignon and vaulting behind. Finally, the wooden
    roof, above the stone vault, was masked by the Arcade of Kings and
    its railing, completed in the taste of Philip the Hardy, who reigned
    from 1270 to 1285.

    These changes have, of course, altered the values of all the parts.
    The portal is injured by being thrown into a glare of light, when it
    was intended to stand in shadow, as you will see in the north and
    south porches over the transept portals. The towers are hurt by
    losing relief and shadow; but the old fleche is obliged to suffer
    the cruellest wrong of all by having its right shoulder hunched up
    by half of a huge rose and the whole of a row of kings, when it was
    built to stand free, and to soar above the whole facade from the top
    of its second storey. One can easily figure it so and replace the
    lost parts of the old facade, more or less at haphazard, from the
    front of Noyon.

    What an outrage it was you can see by a single glance at the new
    fleche opposite. The architect of 1500 has flatly refused to submit
    to such conditions, and has insisted, with very proper self-respect,
    on starting from the balustrade of the Arcade of Kings as his level.
    Not even content with that, he has carried up his square tower
    another lofty storey before he would consent to touch the heart of
    his problem, the conversion of the square tower into the octagon
    fleche. In doing this, he has sacrificed once more the old fleche;
    but his own tower stands free as it should.

    At Vendome, when you go there, you will be in a way to appreciate
    still better what happened to the Chartres fleche; for the clocher
    at Vendome, which is of the same date,--Viollet-le-Duc says earlier,
    and Enlart, "after 1130,"--stood and still stands free, like an
    Italian campanile, which gives it a vast advantage. The tower of
    Saint-Leu-d'Esserent, also after 1130, stands free, above the second
    storey. Indeed, you will hardly find, in the long list of famous
    French spires, another which has been treated with so much indignity
    as this, the greatest and most famous of all; and perhaps the most
    annoying part of it is that you must be grateful to the architect of
    1195 for doing no worse. He has, on the contrary, done his best to
    show respect for the work of his predecessor, and has done so well
    that, handicapped as it is, the old tower still defies rivalry.
    Nearly three hundred and fifty feet high, or, to be exact, 106.5
    metres from the church floor, it is built up with an amount of
    intelligence and refinement that leaves to unprofessional visitors
    no chance to think a criticism--much less to express one. Perhaps--
    when we have seen more--and feel less--who knows?--but certainly not

    "The greatest and surely the most beautiful monument of this kind
    that we possess in France," says Viollet-le-Duc; but although an
    ignorant spectator must accept the architect's decision on a point
    of relative merit, no one is compelled to accept his reasons, as
    final. "There is no need to dwell," he continues, "upon the beauty
    and the grandeur of composition in which the artist has given proof
    of rare sobriety, where all the effects are obtained, not by
    ornaments, but by the just and skilful proportion of the different
    parts. The transition, so hard to adjust, between the square base
    and the octagon of the fleche, is managed and carried out with an
    address which has not been surpassed in similar monuments." One
    stumbles a little at the word "adresse." One never caught one's self
    using the word in Norman churches. Your photographs of Bayeux or
    Boscherville or Secqueville will show you at a glance whether the
    term "adresse" applies to them. Even Vendome would rather be praised
    for "droiture" than for "adresse."--Whether the word "adresse" means
    cleverness, dexterity, adroitness, or simple technical skill, the
    thing itself is something which the French have always admired more
    than the Normans ever did. Viollet-le-Duc himself seems to be a
    little uncertain whether to lay most stress on the one or the other
    quality: "If one tries to appreciate the conception of this tower,"
    quotes the Abbe Bulteau (11,84), "one will see that it is as frank
    as the execution is simple and skilful. Starting from the bottom,
    one reaches the summit of the fleche without marked break; without
    anything to interrupt the general form of the building. This
    clocher, whose base is broad (pleine), massive, and free from
    ornament, transforms itself, as it springs, into a sharp spire with
    eight faces, without its being possible to say where the massive
    construction ends and the light construction begins."

    Granting, as one must, that this concealment of the transition is a
    beauty, one would still like to be quite sure that the Chartres
    scheme is the best. The Norman clochers being thrown out, and that
    at Vendome being admittedly simple, the Clocher de Saint-Jean on the
    Church of Saint-Germain at Auxerre seems to be thought among the
    next in importance, although it is only about one hundred and sixty
    feet in height (forty-nine metres), and therefore hardly in the same
    class with Chartres. Any photograph shows that the Auxerre spire is
    also simple; and that at Etampes you have seen already to be of the
    Vendome rather than of the Chartres type. The clocher at Senlis is
    more "habile"; it shows an effort to be clever, and offers a
    standard of comparison; but the mediaeval architects seem to have
    thought that none of them bore rivalry with Laon for technical
    skill. One of these professional experts, named Villard de
    Honnecourt, who lived between 1200 and 1250, left a notebook which
    you can see in the vitrines of the Bibliotheque Nationale in the Rue
    Richelieu, and which is the source of most that is known about the
    practical ideas of mediaeval architects. He came to Chartres, and,
    standing here before the doors, where we are standing, he made a
    rough drawing, not of the tower, but of the rose, which was then
    probably new, since it must have been planned between 1195 and 1200.
    Apparently the tower did not impress him strongly, for he made no
    note of it; but on the other hand, when he went to Laon, he became
    vehement in praise of the cathedral tower there, which must have
    been then quite new: "I have been in many countries, as you can find
    in this book. In no place have I ever such a tower seen as that of
    Laon.--J'ai este en mult de tieres, si cum vus pores trover en cest
    livre. En aucun liu onques tel tor ne vi com est cele de Loon." The
    reason for this admiration is the same that Viollet-le-Duc gives for
    admiring the tower of Chartres--the "adresse" with which the square
    is changed into the octagon. Not only is the tower itself changed
    into the fleche without visible junction, under cover of four corner
    tourelles, of open work, on slender columns, which start as squares;
    but the tourelles also convert themselves into octagons in the very
    act of rising, and end in octagon fleches that carry up--or once
    carried up--the lines of profile to the central fleche that soared
    above them. Clearly this device far surpassed in cleverness the
    scheme of Chartres, which was comparatively heavy and structural,
    the weights being adjusted for their intended work, while the
    transformation at Laon takes place in the air, and challenges
    discovery in defiance of one's keenest eyesight. "Regard... how the
    tourelles pass from one disposition to another, in rising! Meditate
    on it!"

    The fleche of Laon is gone, but the tower and tourelles are still
    there to show what the architects of the thirteenth century thought
    their most brilliant achievement. One cannot compare Chartres
    directly with any of its contemporary rivals, but one can at least
    compare the old spire with the new one which stands opposite and
    rises above it. Perhaps you will like the new best. Built at a time
    which is commonly agreed to have had the highest standard of taste,
    it does not encourage tourist or artist to insist on setting up
    standards of his own against it. Begun in 1507, it was finished in
    1517. The dome of Saint Peter's at Rome, over which Bramante and
    Raphael and Michael Angelo toiled, was building at the same time;
    Leonardo da Vinci was working at Amboise; Jean Bullant, Pierre
    Lescot, and their patron, Francis I, were beginning their
    architectural careers. Four hundred years, or thereabouts, separated
    the old spire from the new one; and four hundred more separate the
    new one from us. If Viollet-le-Duc, who himself built Gothic spires,
    had cared to compare his fleches at Clermont-Ferrand with the new
    fleche at Chartres, he might perhaps have given us a rule where
    "adresse" ceases to have charm, and where detail becomes tiresome;
    but in the want of a schoolmaster to lay down a law of taste, you
    can admire the new fleche as much as you please. Of course, one sees
    that the lines of the new tower are not clean, like those of the
    old; the devices that cover the transition from the square to the
    octagon are rather too obvious; the proportion of the fleche to the
    tower quite alters the values of the parts; a rigid classical taste
    might even go so far as to hint that the new tower, in comparison
    with the old, showed signs of a certain tendency toward a dim and
    distant vulgarity. There can be no harm in admitting that the new
    tower is a little wanting in repose for a tower whose business is to
    counterpoise the very classic lines of the old one; but no law
    compels you to insist on absolute repose in any form of art; if such
    a law existed, it would have to deal with Michael Angelo before it
    dealt with us. The new tower has many faults, but it has great
    beauties, as you can prove by comparing it with other late Gothic
    spires, including those of Viollet-le-Duc. Its chief fault is to be
    where it is. As a companion to the crusades and to Saint Bernard, it
    lacks austerity. As a companion to the Virgin of Chartres, it
    recalls Diane de Poitiers.

    In fact, the new tower, which in years is four centuries younger
    than its neighbour, is in feeling fully four hundred years older. It
    is self-conscious if not vain; its coiffure is elaborately arranged
    to cover the effects of age, and its neck and shoulders are covered
    with lace and jewels to hide a certain sharpness of skeleton. Yet it
    may be beautiful, still; the poets derided the wrinkles of Diane de
    Poitiers at the very moment when King Henry II idealized her with
    the homage of a Don Quixote; an atmosphere of physical beauty and
    decay hangs about the whole Renaissance.

    One cannot push these resemblances too far, even for the twelfth
    century and the old tower. Exactly what date the old tower
    represents, as a social symbol, is a question that might be as much
    disputed as the beauty of Diane de Poitiers, and yet half the
    interest of architecture consists in the sincerity of its reflection
    of the society that builds. In mere time, by actual date, the old
    tower represents the second crusade, and when, in 1150, Saint
    Bernard was elected chief of that crusade in this very cathedral,--
    or rather, in the cathedral of 1120, which was burned,--the workmen
    were probably setting in mortar the stones of the fleche as we now
    see them; yet the fleche does not represent Saint Bernard in
    feeling, for Saint Bernard held the whole array of church-towers in
    horror as signs merely of display, wealth and pride. The fleche
    rather represents Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis, Abbot Peter the
    Venerable of Cluny, Abbot Abelard of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys, and
    Queen Eleanor of Guienne, who had married Louis-le-Jeune in 1137;
    who had taken the cross from Saint Bernard in 1147; who returned
    from the Holy Land in 1149; and who compelled Saint Bernard to
    approve her divorce in 1152. Eleanor and Saint Bernard were
    centuries apart, yet they lived at the same time and in the same
    church. Speaking exactly, the old tower represents neither of them;
    the new tower itself is hardly more florid than Eleanor was; perhaps
    less so, if one can judge from the fashions of the court-dress of
    her time. The old tower is almost Norman, while Eleanor was wholly
    Gascon, and Gascony was always florid without being always correct.
    The new tower, if it had been built in 1150, like the old one, would
    have expressed Eleanor perfectly, even in height and apparent effort
    to dwarf its mate, except that Eleanor dwarfed her husband without
    an effort, and both in art and in history the result lacked harmony.

    Be the contrast what it may, it does not affect the fact that no
    other church in France has two spires that need be discussed in
    comparison with these. Indeed, no other cathedral of the same class
    has any spires at all, and this superiority of Chartres gave most of
    its point to a saying that "with the spires of Chartres, the choir
    of Beauvais, the nave of Amiens, and the facade of Rheims," one
    could make a perfect church--for us tourists.

    The towers have taken much time, though they are the least religious
    and least complicated part of church architecture, and in no way
    essential to the church; indeed, Saint Bernard thought them an
    excrescence due to pride and worldliness, and this is merely Saint
    Bernard's way of saying that they were an ornament created to
    gratify the artistic sense of beauty. Beautiful as they are, one's
    eyes must drop at last down to the church itself. If the spire
    symbolizes aspiration, the door symbolizes the way; and the portal
    of Chartres is the type of French doors; it stands first in the
    history of Gothic art; and, in the opinion of most Gothic artists,
    first in the interest of all art, though this is no concern of ours.
    Here is the Way to Eternal Life as it was seen by the Church and the
    Art of the first crusade!

    The fortune of this monument has been the best attested Miracle de
    la Vierge in the long list of the Virgin's miracles, for it comes
    down, practically unharmed, through what may with literal accuracy
    be called the jaws of destruction and the flames of hell. Built some
    time in the first half of the twelfth century, it passed, apparently
    unscathed, through the great fire of 1194 which burnt out the church
    behind, and even the timber interior of the towers in front of it.
    Owing to the enormous mass of timber employed in the structure of
    the great churches, these recurrent fires were as destructive as
    fire can be made, yet not only the portals with their statuary and
    carving, but also the lancet windows with their glass, escaped the
    flames; and, what is almost equally strange, escaped also the hand
    of the builder afterwards, who, if he had resembled other
    architects, would have made a new front of his own, but who, with
    piety unexampled, tenderly took the old stones down, one by one, and
    replaced them forty feet in advance of their old position. The
    English wars and the wars of religion brought new dangers, sieges,
    and miseries; the revolution of 1792 brought actual rapine and
    waste; boys have flung stones at the saints; architects have wreaked
    their taste within and without; fire after fire has calcined the
    church vaults; the worst wrecker of all, the restorer of the
    nineteenth century, has prowled about it; yet the porch still
    stands, mutilated but not restored, burned but not consumed, as
    eloquent a witness to the power and perfections of Our Lady as it
    was seven hundred years ago, and perhaps more impressive.

    You will see portals and porches more or less of the same period
    elsewhere in many different places,--at Paris, Le Mans, Sens, Autun,
    Vezelay, Clermont-Ferrand, Moissac, Arles,--a score of them; for the
    same piety has protected them more than once; but you will see no
    other so complete or so instructive, and you may search far before
    you will find another equally good in workmanship. Study of the
    Chartres portal covers all the rest. The feeling and motive of all
    are nearly the same, or vary only to suit the character of the
    patron saint; and the point of all is that this feeling is the
    architectural child of the first crusade. At Chartres one can read
    the first crusade in the portal, as at Mont-Saint-Michel in the
    Aquilon and the promenoir.

    The Abbe Bulteau gives reason for assuming the year 1117 as the
    approximate date of the sculpture about the west portal, and you saw
    at Mont-Saint-Michel, in the promenoir of Abbot Roger II, an
    accurately dated work of the same decade; but whatever the date of
    the plan, the actual work and its spirit belong to 1145 or
    thereabouts, Some fifty years had passed since the crusaders
    streamed through Constantinople to Antioch and Jerusalem, and they
    were daily going and returning. You can see the ideas they brought
    back with the relics and missals and enamels they bought in
    Byzantium. Over the central door is the Christ, which might be
    sculptured after a Byzantine enamel, with its long nimbus or aureole
    or glory enclosing the whole figure. Over the left door is an
    Ascension, bearing the same stamp; and over the right door, the
    seated Virgin, with her crown and her two attendant archangels, is
    an empress. Here is the Church, the Way, and the Life of the twelfth
    century that we have undertaken to feel, if not to understand!

    First comes the central doorway, and above it is the glory of
    Christ, as the church at Chartres understood Christ in the year
    1150; for the glories of Christ were many, and the Chartres Christ
    is one. Whatever Christ may have been in other churches, here, on
    this portal, he offers himself to his flock as the herald of
    salvation alone. Among all the imagery of these three doorways,
    there is no hint of fear, punishment, or damnation, and this is the
    note of the whole time. Before 1200, the Church seems not to have
    felt the need of appealing habitually to terror; the promise of hope
    and happiness was enough; even the portal at Autun, which displays a
    Last Judgment, belonged to Saint Lazarus the proof and symbol of
    resurrection. A hundred years later, every church portal showed
    Christ not as Saviour but as Judge, and He presided over a Last
    Judgment at Bourges and Amiens, and here on the south portal, where
    the despair of the damned is the evident joy of the artist, if it is
    not even sometimes a little his jest, which is worse. At Chartres
    Christ is identified with His Mother, the spirit of love and grace,
    and His Church is the Church Triumphant.

    Not only is fear absent; there is not even a suggestion of pain;
    there is not a martyr with the symbol of his martyrdom; and what is
    still more striking, in the sculptured life of Christ, from the
    Nativity to the Ascension, which adorns the capitals of the columns,
    the single scene that has been omitted is the Crucifixion. There, as
    everywhere in this portal, the artists seem actually to have gone
    out of their way in order to avoid a suggestion of suffering. They
    have pictured Christ and His Mother in all the other events of their
    lives; they have represented evangelists; apostles; the twenty-four
    old men of the Apocalypse; saints, prophets, kings, queens, and
    princes, by the score; the signs of the zodiac, and even the seven
    liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry,
    astronomy, and music; everything is there except misery.

    Perhaps Our Lady of Chartres was known to be peculiarly gracious and
    gentle, and this may partially account also for the extreme
    popularity of her shrine; but whatever the reason, her church was
    clearly intended to show only this side of her nature, and to
    impress it on her Son. You can see it in the grave and gracious face
    and attitude of the Christ, raising His hand to bless you as you
    enter His kingdom; in the array of long figures which line the
    entrance to greet you as you pass; in the expression of majesty and
    mercy of the Virgin herself on her throne above the southern
    doorway; never once are you regarded as a possible rebel, or
    traitor, or a stranger to be treated with suspicion, or as a child
    to be impressed by fear. Equally distinct, perhaps even more
    emphatic, is the sculptor's earnestness to make you feel, without
    direct insistence, that you are entering the Court of the Queen of
    Heaven who is one with her Son and His Church. The central door
    always bore the name of the "Royal Door," because it belonged to the
    celestial majesty of Christ, and naturally bears the stamp of
    royalty; but the south door belongs to the Virgin and to us. Stop a
    moment to see how she receives us, remembering, or trying to
    remember, that to the priests and artists who designed the portal,
    and to the generations that went on the first and second crusades,
    the Virgin in her shrine was at least as living, as real, as
    personal an empress as the Basilissa at Constantinople!

    On the lintel immediately above the doorway is a succession of small
    groups: first, the Annunciation; Mary stands to receive the
    Archangel Gabriel, who comes to announce to her that she is chosen
    to be the Mother of God. The second is the Visitation, and in this
    scene also Mary stands, but she already wears a crown; at least, the
    Abbe Bulteau says so, although time has dealt harshly with it. Then,
    in the centre, follows the Nativity; Mary lies on a low bed,
    beneath, or before, a sort of table or cradle on which lies the
    Infant, while Saint Joseph stands at the bed's head. Then the angel
    appears, directing three shepherds to the spot, filling the rest of
    the space.

    In correct theology, the Virgin ought not to be represented in bed,
    for she could not suffer like ordinary women, but her palace at
    Chartres is not much troubled by theology, and to her, as empress-
    mother, the pain of child-birth was a pleasure which she wanted her
    people to share. The Virgin of Chartres was the greatest of all
    queens, but the most womanly of women, as we shall see; and her
    double character is sustained throughout her palace. She was also
    intellectually gifted in the highest degree. In the upper zone you
    see her again, at the Presentation in the Temple, supporting the
    Child Jesus on the altar, while Simeon aids. Other figures bring
    offerings. The voussures of the arch above contain six archangels,
    with curious wings, offering worship to the Infant and His Imperial
    Mother. Below are the signs of the zodiac; the Fishes and the Twins.
    The rest of the arch is filled by the seven liberal arts, with
    Pythagoras, Aristotle, Cicero, Euclid, Nicomachus, Ptolemy, and
    Priscian as their representatives, testifying to the Queen's
    intellectual superiority.

    In the centre sits Mary, with her crown on her head and her Son in
    her lap, enthroned, receiving the homage of heaven and earth; of all
    time, ancient and modern; of all thought, Christian and Pagan; of
    all men, and all women; including, if you please, your homage and
    mine, which she receives without question, as her due; which she
    cannot be said to claim, because she is above making claims; she is
    empress. Her left hand bore a sceptre; her right supported the
    Child, Who looks directly forward, repeating the Mother's attitude,
    and raises His right hand to bless, while His left rests on the orb
    of empire. She and her Child are one.

    All this was noble beyond the nobility of man, but its earthly form
    was inspired by the Empire rather than by the petty royalty of
    Louis-le-Gros or his pious queen Alix of Savoy. One mark of the
    period is the long, oval nimbus; another is the imperial character
    of the Virgin; a third is her unity with the Christ which is the
    Church. To us, the mark that will distinguish the Virgin of
    Chartres, or, if you prefer, the Virgin of the Crusades, is her
    crown and robes and throne. According to M. Rohault de Fleury's
    "Iconographie de la Sainte Vierge" (11, 62), the Virgin's headdress
    and ornaments had been for long ages borrowed from the costume of
    the Empresses of the East in honour of the Queen of Heaven. No doubt
    the Virgin of Chartres was the Virgin recognized by the Empress
    Helena, mother of Constantine, and was at least as old as Helena's
    pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 326. She was not a Western, feudal queen,
    nor was her Son a feudal king; she typified an authority which the
    people wanted, and the fiefs feared; the Pax Romana; the omnipotence
    of God in government. In all Europe, at that time, there was no
    power able to enforce justice or to maintain order, and no symbol of
    such a power except Christ and His Mother and the Imperial Crown.

    This idea is very different from that which was the object of our
    pilgrimage to Mont-Saint-Michel; but since all Chartres is to be one
    long comment upon it, you can lay the history of the matter on the
    shelf for study at your leisure, if you ever care to study into the
    weary details of human illusions and disappointments, while here we
    pray to the Virgin, and absorb ourselves in the art, which is your
    pleasure and which shall not teach either a moral or a useful
    lesson. The Empress Mary is receiving you at her portal, and whether
    you are an impertinent child, or a foolish old peasant-woman, or an
    insolent prince, or a more insolent tourist, she receives you with
    the same dignity; in fact, she probably sees very little difference
    between you. An empress of Russia to-day would probably feel little
    difference in the relative rank of her subjects, and the Virgin was
    empress over emperors, patriarchs, and popes. Any one, however
    ignorant, can feel the sustained dignity of the sculptor's work,
    which is asserted with all the emphasis he could put into it. Not
    one of these long figures which line the three doorways but is an
    officer or official in attendance on the Empress or her Son, and
    bears the stamp of the Imperial Court. They are mutilated, but, if
    they have been treated with indignity, so were often their temporal
    rivals, torn to pieces, trampled on, to say nothing of being merely
    beheaded or poisoned, in the Sacred Palace and the Hippodrome,
    without losing that peculiar Oriental dignity of style which seems
    to drape the least dignified attitudes. The grand air of the twelfth
    century is something like that of a Greek temple; you can, if you
    like, hammer every separate stone to pieces, but you cannot hammer
    out the Greek style. There were originally twenty-four of these
    statues, and nineteen remain. Beginning at the north end, and
    passing over the first figure, which carries a head that does not
    belong to it, notice the second, a king with a long sceptre of
    empire, a book of law, and robes of Byzantine official splendour.
    Beneath his feet is a curious woman's head with heavy braids of
    hair, and a crown. The third figure is a queen, charming as a woman,
    but particularly well-dressed, and with details of ornament and
    person elaborately wrought; worth drawing, if one could only draw;
    worth photographing with utmost care to include the strange support
    on which she stands: a monkey, two dragons, a dog, a basilisk with a
    dog's head. Two prophets follow--not so interesting;--prophets
    rarely interest. Then comes the central bay: two queens who claim
    particular attention, then a prophet, then a saint next the doorway;
    then on the southern jamb-shafts, another saint, a king, a queen,
    and another king. Last comes the southern bay, the Virgin's own, and
    there stands first a figure said to be a youthful king; then a
    strongly sculptured saint; next the door a figure called also a
    king, but so charmingly delicate in expression that the robes alone
    betray his sex; and who this exquisite young aureoled king may have
    been who stands so close to the Virgin, at her right hand, no one
    can now reveal. Opposite him is a saint who may be, or should be,
    the Prince of the Apostles; then a bearded king with a broken
    sceptre, standing on two dragons; and, at last, a badly mutilated

    These statues are the Eginetan marbles of French art; from them all
    modern French sculpture dates, or ought to date. They are singularly
    interesting; as naif as the smile on the faces of the Greek
    warriors, but no more grotesque than they. You will see Gothic
    grotesques in plenty, and you cannot mistake the two intentions; the
    twelfth century would sooner have tempted the tortures of every
    feudal dungeon in Europe than have put before the Virgin's eyes any
    figure that could be conceived as displeasing to her. These figures
    are full of feeling, and saturated with worship; but what is most to
    our purpose is the feminine side which they proclaim and insist
    upon. Not only the number of the female figures, and their beauty,
    but also the singularly youthful beauty of several of the males; the
    superb robes they wear; the expression of their faces and their
    figures; the details of hair, stuffs, ornaments, jewels; the
    refinement and feminine taste of the whole, are enough to startle
    our interest if we recognize what meaning they had to the twelfth

    These figures looked stiff and long and thin and ridiculous to
    enlightened citizens of the eighteenth century, but they were made
    to fit the architecture; if you want to know what an enthusiast
    thinks of them, listen to M. Huysmans's "Cathedral." "Beyond a
    doubt, the most beautiful sculpture in the world is in this place."
    He can hardly find words to express his admiration for the queens,
    and particularly for the one on the right of the central doorway.
    "Never in any period has a more expressive figure been thus wrought
    by the genius of man; it is the chef-d'oeuvre of infantile grace and
    holy candour .... She is the elder sister of the Prodigal Son, the
    one of whom Saint Luke does not speak, but who, if she existed,
    would have pleaded the cause of the absent, and insisted, with the
    father, that he should kill the fatted calf at his son's return."
    The idea is charming if you are the returning son, as many twelfth-
    century pilgrims must have thought themselves; but, in truth, the
    figure is that of a queen; an Eleanor of Guienne; her position there
    is due to her majesty, which bears witness to the celestial majesty
    of the Court in which she is only a lady-in-waiting: and she is
    hardly more humanly fascinating than her brother, the youthful king
    at the Virgin's right hand, who has nothing of the Prodigal Son, but
    who certainly has much of Lohengrin, or even--almost--Tristan.

    The Abbe Bulteau has done his best to name these statues, but the
    names would be only in your way. That the sculptor meant them for a
    Queen of Sheba or a King of Israel has little to do with their
    meaning in the twelfth century, when the people were much more
    likely to have named them after the queens and kings they knew. The
    whole charm lies for us in the twelfth-century humanity of Mary and
    her Court; not in the scriptural names under which it was made
    orthodox. Here, in this western portal, it stands as the crusaders
    of 1100-50 imagined it; but by walking round the church to the porch
    over the entrance to the north transept, you shall see it again as
    Blanche of Castile and Saint Louis imagined it, a hundred years
    later, so that you will know better whether the earthly attributes
    are exaggerated or untrue.

    Porches, like steeples, were rather a peculiarity of French
    churches, and were studied, varied, one might even say petted, by
    French architects to an extent hardly attempted elsewhere; but among
    all the French porches, those of Chartres are the most famous. There
    are two: one on the north side, devoted to the Virgin; the other, on
    the south, devoted to the Son, "The mass of intelligence, knowledge,
    acquaintance with effects, practical experience, expended on these
    two porches of Chartres," says Viollet-le-Duc, "would be enough to
    establish the glory of a whole generation of artists." We begin with
    the north porch because it belonged to the Virgin; and it belonged
    to the Virgin because the north was cold, bleak, sunless, windy, and
    needed warmth, peace, affection, and power to protect against the
    assaults of Satan and his swarming devils. There the all-suffering
    but the all-powerful Mother received other mothers who suffered like
    her, but who, as a rule, were not powerful. Traditionally in the
    primitive church, the northern porch belonged to the women. When
    they needed help, they came here, because it was the only place in
    this world or in any other where they had much hope of finding even
    a reception. See how Mary received them!

    The porch extends the whole width of the transept, about one hundred
    and twenty feet (37.65 metres), divided into three bays some twenty
    feet deep, and covered with a stone vaulted roof supported on piers
    outside. Begun toward 1215 under Philip Augustus, the architectural
    part was finished toward 1225 under Louis VIII; and after his death
    in 1226, the decorative work and statuary were carried on under the
    regency of his widow, Blanche of Castile, and through the reign of
    her son, Saint Louis (1235-70), until about 1275, when the work was
    completed by Philip the Hardy. A gift of the royal family of France,
    all the members of the family seem to have had a share in building
    it, and several of their statues have been supposed to adorn it. The
    walls are lined--the porch, in a religious sense, is inhabited--by
    more than seven hundred figures, great and small, all, in one way or
    another, devoted to the glory of the Queen of Heaven. You will see
    that a hundred years have converted the Byzantine Empress into a
    French Queen, as the same years had converted Alix of Savoy into
    Blanche of Castile; but the note of majesty is the same, and the
    assertion of power is, if possible, more emphatic.

    The highest note is struck at once, in the central bay, over the
    door, where you see the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven, a
    favourite subject in art from very early times, and the dominant
    idea of Mary's church. You see Mary on the left, seated on her
    throne; on the right, seated on a precisely similar throne, is
    Christ, Who holds up His right hand apparently to bless, since Mary
    already bears the crown. Mary bends forward, with her hands raised
    toward her Son, as though in gratitude or adoration or prayer, but
    certainly not in an attitude of feudal homage. On either side, an
    archangel swings a censer.

    On the lintel below, on the left, is represented the death of Mary;
    on the right, Christ carries, in the folds of His mantle, the soul
    of Mary in the form of a little child, and at the same time blesses
    the body which is carried away by angels--The Resurrection of Mary.

    Below the lintel, supporting it, and dividing the doorway in halves,
    is the trumeau,--the central pier,--a new part of the portal which
    was unknown to the western door. Usually in the Virgin's churches,
    as at Rheims, or Amiens or Paris, the Virgin herself, with her Son
    in her arms, stands against this pier, trampling on the dragon with
    the woman's head. Here, not the Virgin with the Christ, but her
    mother Saint Anne stands, with the infant Virgin in her arms; while
    beneath is, or was, Saint Joachim, her husband, among his flocks,
    receiving from the Archangel Gabriel the annunciation.

    So at the entrance the Virgin declares herself divinely Queen in her
    own right; divinely born; divinely resurrected from death, on the
    third day; seated by divine right on the throne of Heaven, at the
    right hand of God, the Son, with Whom she is one.

    Unless we feel this assertion of divine right in the Queen of
    Heaven, apart from the Trinity, yet one with It, Chartres is
    unintelligible. The extreme emphasis laid upon it at the church door
    shows what the church means within. Of course, the assertion was not
    strictly orthodox; perhaps, since we are not members of the Church,
    we might be unnoticed and unrebuked if we start by suspecting that
    the worship of the Virgin never was strictly orthodox; but Chartres
    was hers before it ever belonged to the Church, and, like Lourdes in
    our own time, was a shrine peculiarly favoured by her presence. The
    mere fact that it was a bishopric had little share in its sanctity.
    The bishop was much more afraid of Mary than he was of any Church
    Council ever held.

    Critics are doing their best to destroy the peculiar personal
    interest of this porch, but tourists and pilgrims may be excused for
    insisting on their traditional rights here, since the porch is
    singular, even in the thirteenth century, for belonging entirely to
    them and the royal family of France, subject only to the Virgin.
    True artists, turned critics, think also less of rules than of
    values, and no ignorant public can be trusted to join the critics in
    losing temper judiciously over the date or correctness of a portrait
    until they knew something of its motives and merits. The public has
    always felt certain that some of the statues which stand against the
    outer piers of this porch are portraits, and they see no force in
    the objection that such decoration was not customary in the Church.
    Many things at Chartres were not customary in the Church, although
    the Church now prefers not to dwell on them. Therefore the student
    returns to Viollet-le-Duc with his usual delight at finding at least
    one critic whose sense of values is stronger than his sense of rule:
    "Each statue," he says in his "Dictionary" (111, 166), "possesses
    its personal character which remains graven on the memory like the
    recollection of a living being whom one has known .... A large part
    of the statues in the porches of Notre Dame de Chartres, as well as
    of the portals of the Cathedrals of Amiens and Rheims, possess these
    individual qualities, and this it is which explains why these
    statues produce on the crowd so vivid an impression that it names
    them, knows them, and attaches to each of them an idea, often a

    Probably the crowd did so from the first moment they saw the
    statues, and with good reason. At all events, they have attached to
    two of the most individual figures on the north porch, two names,
    perhaps the best known in France in the year 1226, but which since
    the year 1300 can have conveyed only the most shadowy meaning to any
    but pure antiquarians. The group is so beautiful as to be given a
    plate to itself in the "Monographie" (number 26), as representing
    Philip Hurepel and his wife Mahaut de Boulogne. So little could any
    crowd, or even any antiquarian, at any time within six hundred years
    have been likely to pitch on just these persons to associate with
    Blanche of Castile in any kind of family unity, that the mere
    suggestion seems wild; yet Blanche outlived Pierre by nearly twenty
    years, and her power over this transept and porch ended only with
    her death as regent in 1252.

    Philippe, nicknamed Hurepel,--Boarskin,--was a "fils deFrance,"
    whose father, Philip Augustus, had serious, not to say fatal,
    difficulties with the Church about the legality of his marriage,
    and was forced to abandon his wife, who died in 1201, after giving
    birth to Hurepel in 1200. The child was recognized as legitimate,
    and stood next to the throne, after his half-brother Louis, who was
    thirteen years older. Almost at his birth he was affianced to
    Mahaut, Countess of Boulogne, and the marriage was celebrated in
    1216. Rich and strongly connected, Hurepel naturally thought
    himself--and was--head of the royal family next to the King, and
    when his half-brother, Louis VIII, died in 1226, leaving only a son,
    afterwards Saint Louis, a ten-year-old boy, to succeed, Hurepel very
    properly claimed the guardianship of his infant nephew, and deeply
    resented being excluded by Queen Blanche from what he regarded--
    perhaps with justice--as his right. Nearly all the great lords and
    the members of the royal family sided with him, and entered into a
    civil war against Blanche, at the moment when these two porches of
    Chartres were building, between 1228 and 1230. The two greatest
    leaders of the conspiracy were Hurepel, whom we are expected to
    recognize on the pier of this porch, and Pierre Mauclerc, of
    Brittany and Dreux, whom we have no choice but to admit on the
    trumeau of the other. In those days every great feudal lord was more
    or less related by blood to the Crown, and although Blanche of
    Castile was also a cousin as well as queen-mother, they hated her as
    a Spanish intruder with such hatred as men felt in an age when
    passions were real.

    That these two men should be found here, associated with Blanche in
    the same work, at the same time, under the same roof, is a fantastic
    idea, and students can feel in this political difficulty a much
    stronger objection to admitting Hurepel to Queen Blanche's porch
    than any supposed rule of Church custom; yet the first privilege of
    tourist ignorance is the right to see, or try to see, their
    thirteenth century with thirteenth-century eyes. Passing by the
    statues of Philip and Mahaut, and stepping inside the church door,
    almost the first figure that the visitor sees on lifting his eyes to
    the upper windows of the transept is another figure of Philippe
    Hurepel, in glass, on his knees, with clasped hands, before an
    altar; and to prevent possibility of mistake his blazoned coat bears
    the words: "Phi: Conte de Bolone." Apparently he is the donor, for,
    in the rose above, he sits in arms on a white horse with a shield
    bearing the blazon of France. Obliged to make his peace with the
    Queen in 1230, Hurepel died in 1233 or 1234, while Blanche was still
    regent, and instantly took his place as of right side by side with
    Blanche's castles of Castile among the great benefactors of the

    Beneath the next rose is Mahaut herself, as donor, bearing her
    husband's arms of France, suggesting that the windows must have been
    given together, probably before Philip's death in 1233, since Mahaut
    was married again in 1238, this time to Alfonso of Portugal, who
    repudiated her in 1249, and left her to die in her own town of
    Boulogne in 1258. Lastly, in the third window of the series, is her
    daughter Jeanne,--"Iehenne,"--who was probably born before 1220, and
    who was married in 1236 to Gaucher de Chatillon, one of the greatest
    warriors of his time. Jeanne also--according to the Abbe Bulteau
    (111, 225)--bears the arms of her father and mother; which seems to
    suggest that she gave this window before her marriage. These three
    windows, therefore, have the air of dating at least as early as 1233
    when Philip Hurepel died, while next them follow two more roses, and
    the great rose of France, presumably of the same date, all scattered
    over with the castles of Queen Blanche. The motive of the porch
    outside is repeated in the glass, as it should be, and as the Saint
    Anne of the Rose of France, within, repeats the Saint Anne on the
    trumeau of the portal. The personal stamp of the royal family is
    intense, but the stamp of the Virgin's personality is intenser
    still. In the presence of Mary, not only did princes hide their
    quarrels, but they also put on their most courteous manners and the
    most refined and even austere address. The Byzantine display of
    luxury and adornment had vanished. All the figures suggest the
    sanctity of the King and his sister Isabel; the court has the air of
    a convent; but the idea of Mary's majesty is asserted through it
    all. The artists and donors and priests forgot nothing which, in
    their judgment, could set off the authority, elegance, and
    refinement of the Queen of Heaven; even the young ladies-in-waiting
    are there, figured by the twelve Virtues and the fourteen
    Beatitudes; and, indeed, though men are plenty and some of them are
    handsome, women give the tone, the charm, and mostly the
    intelligence. The Court of Mary is feminine, and its charms are
    Grace and Love; perhaps even more grace than love, in a social
    sense, if you look at Beauty and Friendship among Beatitudes.

    M. Huysmans insists that this sculpture is poor in comparison with
    his twelfth-century Prodigal Daughter, and I hope you can enter into
    the spirit of his enthusiasm; but other people prefer the
    thirteenth-century work, and think it equals the best Greek.
    Approaching, or surpassing this,--as you like,--is the sculpture you
    will see at Rheims, of the same period, and perhaps the same hands;
    but, for our purpose, the Queen of Sheba, here in the right-hand
    bay, is enough, because you can compare it on the spot with M.
    Huysmans's figure on the western portal, which may also be a Queen
    of Sheba, who, as spouse of Solomon, typified the Church, and
    therefore prefigured Mary herself. Both are types of Court beauty
    and grace, one from the twelfth century, the other from the
    thirteenth, and you can prefer which you please; but you want to
    bear in mind that each, in her time, pleased the Virgin. You can
    even take for a settled fact that these were the types of feminine
    beauty and grace which pleased the Virgin beyond all others.

    The purity of taste, feeling, and manners which stamps the art of
    these centuries, as it did the Court of Saint Louis and his mother,
    is something you will not wholly appreciate till you reach the
    depravity of the Valois; but still you can see how exquisite the
    Virgin's taste was, and how pure. You can also see how she shrank
    from the sight of pain. Here, in the central bay, next to King
    David, who stands at her right hand, is the great figure of Abraham
    about to sacrifice Isaac. If there is one subject more revolting
    than another to a woman who typifies the Mother, it is this subject
    of Abraham and Isaac, with its compound horror of masculine
    stupidity and brutality. The sculptor has tried to make even this
    motive a pleasing one. He has placed Abraham against the column in
    the correct harshness of attitude, with his face turned aside and
    up, listening for his orders; but the little Isaac, with hands and
    feet tied, leans like a bundle of sticks against his father's knee
    with an expression of perfect faith and confidence, while Abraham's
    left hand quiets him and caresses the boy's face, with a movement
    that must have gone straight to Mary's heart, for Isaac always
    prefigured Christ.

    The glory of Mary was not one of terror, and her porch contains no
    appeal to any emotion but those of her perfect grace. If we were to
    stay here for weeks, we should find only this idea worked into every
    detail. The Virgin of the thirteenth century is no longer an
    Empress; she is Queen Mother,--an idealized Blanche of Castile;--too
    high to want, or suffer, or to revenge, or to aspire, but not too
    high to pity, to punish, or to pardon. The women went to her porch
    for help as naturally as babies to their mother; and the men, in her
    presence, fell on their knees because they feared her intelligence
    and her anger.

    Not that all the men showed equal docility! We must go next, round
    the church, to the south porch, which was the gift of Pierre
    Mauclerc, Comte de Dreux, another member of the royal family, great-
    grandson of Louis VI, and therefore second cousin to Louis VIII and
    Philip Hurepel. Philip Augustus, his father's first cousin, married
    the young man, in 1212, to Alix, heiress of the Duchy of Brittany,
    and this marriage made him one of the most powerful vassals of the
    Crown. He joined Philip Hurepel in resisting the regency of Queen
    Blanche in 1227, and Blanche, after a long struggle, caused him to
    be deposed in 1230. Pierre was obliged to submit, and was pardoned.
    Until 1236, he remained in control of the Duchy of Brittany, but
    then was obliged to surrender his power to his son, and turned his
    turbulent activity against the infidels in Syria and Egypt, dying in
    1250, on his return from Saint Louis's disastrous crusade. Pierre de
    Dreux was a masculine character,--a bad cleric, as his nickname
    Mauclerc testified, but a gentleman, a soldier, and a scholar, and,
    what is more to our purpose, a man of taste. He built the south
    porch at Chartres, apparently as a memorial of his marriage with
    Alix in 1212, and the statuary is of the same date with that of the
    north porch, but, like that, it was not finished when Pierre died in

    One would like to know whether Pierre preferred to take the southern
    entrance, or whether he was driven there by the royal claim to the
    Virgin's favour. The southern porch belongs to the Son, as the
    northern belongs to the Mother. Pierre never showed much deference
    to women, and probably felt more at his ease under the protection of
    the Son than of Mary; but in any case he showed as clearly as
    possible what he thought on this question of persons. To Pierre,
    Christ was first, and he asserted his opinion as emphatically as
    Blanche asserted hers.

    Which porch is the more beautiful is a question for artists to
    discuss and decide, if they can. Either is good enough for us, whose
    pose is ignorance, and whose pose is strictly correct; but apart
    from its beauty or its art, there is also the question of feeling,
    of motive, which puts the Porche de Dreux in contrast with the
    Porche de France, and this is wholly within our competence. At the
    outset, the central bay displays, above the doorway, Christ, on a
    throne, raising His hands to show the stigmata, the wounds which
    were the proof of man's salvation. At His right hand sits the
    Mother,--without her crown; on His left, in equal rank with the
    Mother, sits Saint John the Evangelist. Both are in the same
    attitude of supplication as intercessors; there is no distinction in
    rank or power between Mary and John, since neither has any power
    except what Christ gives them. Pierre did not, indeed, put the
    Mother on her knees before the Son, as you can see her at Amiens and
    in later churches,--certainly bad taste in Mary's own palace; but he
    allowed her no distinction which is not her strict right. The angels
    above and around bear the symbols of the Passion; they are
    unconscious of Mary's presence; they are absorbed in the perfections
    of the Son. On the lintel just below is the Last Judgment, where
    Saint Michael reappears, weighing the souls of the dead which Mary
    and John above are trying to save from the strict justice of Christ.
    The whole melodrama of Church terrors appears after the manner of
    the thirteenth century, on this church door, without regard to
    Mary's feelings; and below, against the trumeau, stands the great
    figure of Christ,--the whole Church,--trampling on the lion and
    dragon. On either side of the doorway stand six great figures of the
    Apostles asserting themselves as the columns of the Church, and
    looking down at us with an expression no longer calculated to calm
    our fears or encourage extravagant hopes. No figure on this porch
    suggests a portrait or recalls a memory.

    Very grand, indeed, is this doorway; dignified, impressive, and
    masculine to a degree seldom if ever equalled in art; and the left
    bay rivals it. There, in the tympanum, Christ appears again;
    standing; bearing on His head the crown royal; alone, except for the
    two angels who adore, and surrounded only by the martyrs, His
    witnesses. The right bay is devoted to Saint Nicholas and the Saints
    Confessors who bear witness to the authority of Christ in faith. Of
    the twenty-eight great figures, the officers of the royal court, who
    make thus the strength of the Church beneath Christ, not one is a
    woman. The masculine orthodoxy of Pierre Mauclerc has spared neither
    sex nor youth; all are of a maturity which chills the blood,
    excepting two, whose youthful beauty is heightened by the severity
    of their surroundings, so that the Abbe Bulteau makes bold even to
    say that "the two statues of Saint George and of Saint Theodore may
    be regarded as the most beautiful of our cathedral, perhaps even as
    the two masterpieces of statuary at the end of the thirteenth
    century." On that point, let every one follow his taste; but one
    reflection at least seems to force itself on the mind in comparing
    these twenty-eight figures. Certainly the sword, however it may
    compare with the pen in other directions, is in art more powerful
    than all the pens, or volumes, or crosiers ever made. Your "Golden
    Legend" and Roman Breviary are here the only guide-books worth
    consulting, and the stories of young George and Theodore stand there
    recorded; as their miracle under the walls of Antioch, during the
    first crusade, is matter of history; but among these magnificent
    figures one detects at a glance that it is not the religion or
    sacred purity of the subject, or even the miracles or the
    sufferings, which inspire passion for Saint George and Saint
    Theodore, under the Abbe's robe; it is with him, as with the plain
    boy and girl, simply youth, with lance and sword and shield.

    These two figures stand in the outer embrasures of the left bay,
    where they can be best admired, and perhaps this arrangement shows
    what Perron de Dreux, as he was commonly called, loved most, in his
    heart of hearts; but elsewhere, even in this porch, he relaxed his
    severity, and became at times almost gracious to women. Good judges
    have, indeed, preferred this porch to the northern one; but, be that
    as you please, it contains seven hundred and eighty-three figures,
    large and small, to serve for comparison. Among these, the female
    element has its share, though not a conspicuous one; and even the
    Virgin gets her rights, though not beside her Son. To see her, you
    must stand outside in the square and, with a glass, look at the
    central pignon, or gable, of the porch. There, just above the point
    of the arch, you will see Mary on her throne, crowned, wearing her
    royal robes, and holding the Child on her knees, with the two
    archangels on either side offering incense. Pierre de Dreux, or some
    one else, admitted at last that she was Queen Regent, although
    evidently not eager to do so; and if you turn your glass up to the
    gable of the transept itself, above the great rose and the colonnade
    over it, you can see another and a colossal statue of the Virgin,
    but standing, with the Child on her left arm. She seems to be
    crowned, and to hold the globe in her right hand; but the Abbe
    Bulteau says it is a flower. The two archangels are still there.
    This figure is thought to have been a part of the finishing
    decoration added by Philip the Fair in 1304.

    In theology, Pierre de Dreux seems to show himself a more learned
    clerk than his cousins of France, and, as an expression of the
    meaning the church of Mary should externally display, the Porche de
    Dreux, if not as personal, is as energetic as the Porche de France,
    or the western portal. As we pass into the Cathedral, under the
    great Christ, on the trumeau, you must stop to look at Pierre
    himself. A bridegroom, crowned with flowers on his wedding-day, he
    kneels in prayer, while two servants distribute bread to the poor.
    Below, you see him again, seated with his wife Alix before a table
    with one loaf, assisting at the meal they give to the poor. Pierre
    kneels to God; he and his wife bow before the Virgin and the poor;--
    but not to Queen Blanche!

    Now let us enter!--
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