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    Ch. 6 - The Virgin of Chartres

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    Chapter 6
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    We must take ten minutes to accustom our eyes to the light, and we
    had better use them to seek the reason why we come to Chartres
    rather than to Rheims or Amiens or Bourges, for the cathedral that
    fills our ideal. The truth is, there are several reasons; there
    generally are, for doing the things we like; and after you have
    studied Chartres to the ground, and got your reasons settled, you
    will never find an antiquarian to agree with you; the architects
    will probably listen to you with contempt; and even these excellent
    priests, whose kindness is great, whose patience is heavenly, and
    whose good opinion you would so gladly gain, will turn from you with
    pain, if not with horror. The Gothic is singular in this; one seems
    easily at home in the Renaissance; one is not too strange in the
    Byzantine; as for the Roman, it is ourselves; and we could walk
    blindfolded through every chink and cranny of the Greek mind; all
    these styles seem modern, when we come close to them; but the Gothic
    gets away. No two men think alike about it, and no woman agrees with
    either man. The Church itself never agreed about it, and the
    architects agree even less than the priests. To most minds it casts
    too many shadows; it wraps itself in mystery; and when people talk
    of mystery, they commonly mean fear. To others, the Gothic seems
    hoary with age and decrepitude, and its shadows mean death. What is
    curious to watch is the fanatical conviction of the Gothic
    enthusiast, to whom the twelfth century means exuberant youth, the
    eternal child of Wordsworth, over whom its immortality broods like
    the day; it is so simple and yet so complicated; it sees so much and
    so little; it loves so many toys and cares for so few necessities;
    its youth is so young, its age so old, and its youthful yearning for
    old thought is so disconcerting, like the mysterious senility of the
    baby that--

    Deaf and silent, reads the eternal deep,
    Haunted forever by the eternal mind.

    One need not take it more seriously than one takes the baby itself.
    Our amusement is to play with it, and to catch its meaning in its
    smile; and whatever Chartres maybe now, when young it was a smile.
    To the Church, no doubt, its cathedral here has a fixed and
    administrative meaning, which is the same as that of every other
    bishop's seat and with which we have nothing whatever to do. To us,
    it is a child's fancy; a toy-house to please the Queen of Heaven,--
    to please her so much that she would be happy in it,--to charm her
    till she smiled.

    The Queen Mother was as majestic as you like; she was absolute; she
    could be stern; she was not above being angry; but she was still a
    woman, who loved grace, beauty, ornament,--her toilette, robes,
    jewels;--who considered the arrangements of her palace with
    attention, and liked both light and colour; who kept a keen eye on
    her Court, and exacted prompt and willing obedience from king and
    archbishops as well as from beggars and drunken priests. She
    protected her friends and punished her enemies. She required space,
    beyond what was known in the Courts of kings, because she was liable
    at all times to have ten thousand people begging her for favours--
    mostly inconsistent with law--and deaf to refusal. She was extremely
    sensitive to neglect, to disagreeable impressions, to want of
    intelligence in her surroundings. She was the greatest artist, as
    she was the greatest philosopher and musician and theologist, that
    ever lived on earth, except her Son, Who, at Chartres, is still an
    Infant under her guardianship. Her taste was infallible; her
    sentence eternally final. This church was built for her in this
    spirit of simple-minded, practical, utilitarian faith,--in this
    singleness of thought, exactly as a little girl sets up a doll-house
    for her favourite blonde doll. Unless you can go back to your dolls,
    you are out of place here. If you can go back to them, and get rid
    for one small hour of the weight of custom, you shall see Chartres
    in glory.

    The palaces of earthly queens were hovels compared with these
    palaces of the Queen of Heaven at Chartres, Paris, Laon, Noyon,
    Rheims, Amiens, Rouen, Bayeux, Coutances,--a list that might be
    stretched into a volume. The nearest approach we have made to a
    palace was the Merveille at Mont-Saint-Michel, but no Queen had a
    palace equal to that. The Merveille was built, or designed, about
    the year 1200; toward the year 1500, Louis XI built a great castle
    at Loches in Touraine, and there Queen Anne de Bretagne had
    apartments which still exist, and which we will visit. At Blois you
    shall see the residence which served for Catherine de Medicis till
    her death in 1589. Anne de Bretagne was trebly queen, and Catherine
    de Medicis took her standard of comfort from the luxury of Florence.
    At Versailles you can see the apartments which the queens of the
    Bourbon line occupied through their century of magnificence. All put
    together, and then trebled in importance, could not rival the
    splendour of any single cathedral dedicated to Queen Mary in the
    thirteenth century; and of them all, Chartres was built to be
    peculiarly and exceptionally her delight.

    One has grown so used to this sort of loose comparison, this
    reckless waste of words, that one no longer adopts an idea unless it
    is driven in with hammers of statistics and columns of figures. With
    the irritating demand for literal exactness and perfectly straight
    lines which lights up every truly American eye, you will certainly
    ask when this exaltation of Mary began, and unless you get the
    dates, you will doubt the facts. It is your own fault if they are
    tiresome; you might easily read them all in the "Iconographie de la
    Sainte Vierge," by M. Rohault de Fleury, published in 1878. You can
    start at Byzantium with the Empress Helena in 326, or with the
    Council of Ephesus in 431. You will find the Virgin acting as the
    patron saint of Constantinople and of the Imperial residence, under
    as many names as Artemis or Aphrodite had borne. As Godmother [word
    in Greek] Deipara [word in Greek], Pathfinder [word in Greek],
    afterwards gave to Murillo the subject of a famous painting, told
    that once, when he was reciting before her statue the "Ave Maris
    Stella," and came to the words, "Monstra te esse Matrem," the image,
    pressing its breast, dropped on the lips of her servant three drops
    of the milk which had nourished the Saviour. The same miracle, in
    various forms, was told of many other persons, both saints and
    sinners; but it made so much impression on the mind of the age that,
    in the fourteenth century, Dante, seeking in Paradise for some
    official introduction to the foot of the Throne, found no
    intercessor with the Queen of Heaven more potent than Saint Bernard.
    You can still read Bernard's hymns to the Virgin, and even his
    sermons, if you like. To him she was the great mediator. In the eyes
    of a culpable humanity, Christ was too sublime, too terrible, too
    just, but not even the weakest human frailty could fear to approach
    his Mother. Her attribute was humility; her love and pity were
    infinite. "Let him deny your mercy who can say that he has ever
    asked it in vain."

    Saint Bernard was emotional and to a certain degree mystical, like
    Adam de Saint-Victor, whose hymns were equally famous, but the
    emotional saints and mystical poets were not by any means allowed to
    establish exclusive rights to the Virgin's favour. Abelard was as
    devoted as they were, and wrote hymns as well. Philosophy claimed
    her, and Albert the Great, the head of scholasticism, the teacher of
    Thomas Aquinas, decided in her favour the question: "Whether the
    Blessed Virgin possessed perfectly the seven liberal arts." The
    Church at Chartres had decided it a hundred years before by putting
    the seven liberal arts next her throne, with Aristotle himself to
    witness; but Albertus gave the reason: "I hold that she did, for it
    is written, 'Wisdom has built herself a house, and has sculptured
    seven columns.' That house is the blessed Virgin; the seven columns
    are the seven liberal arts. Mary, therefore, had perfect mastery of
    science." Naturally she had also perfect mastery of economics, and
    most of her great churches were built in economic centres. The
    guilds were, if possible, more devoted to her than the monks; the
    bourgeoisie of Paris, Rouen, Amiens, Laon, spend money by millions
    to gain her favour. Most surprising of all, the great military class
    was perhaps the most vociferous. Of all inappropriate haunts for the
    gentle, courteous, pitying Mary, a field of battle seems to be the
    worst, if not distinctly blasphemous; yet the greatest French
    warriors insisted on her leading them into battle, and in the actual
    melee when men were killing each other, on every battle-field in
    Europe, for at least five hundred years, Mary was present, leading
    both sides. The battle-cry of the famous Constable du Guesclin was
    "Notre-Dame-Guesclin"; "Notre-Dame-Coucy" was the cry of the great
    Sires de Coucy; "Notre-Dame-Auxerre"; "Notre-Dame-Sancerre"; "Notre-
    Dame-Hainault"; "Notre-Dame-Gueldres"; "Notre-Dame-Bourbon"; "Notre-
    Dame-Bearn";--all well-known battle-cries. The King's own battle at
    one time cried, "Notre-Dame-Saint-Denis-Montjoie"; the Dukes of
    Burgundy cried, "Notre-Dame-Bourgogne"; and even the soldiers of the
    Pope were said to cry, "Notre-Dame-Saint-Pierre."

    The measure of this devotion, which proves to any religious American
    mind, beyond possible cavil, its serious and practical reality, is
    the money it cost. According to statistics, in the single century
    between 1170 and 1270, the French built eighty cathedrals and nearly
    five hundred churches of the cathedral class, which would have cost,
    according to an estimate made in 1840, more than five thousand
    millions to replace. Five thousand million francs is a thousand
    million dollars, and this covered only the great churches of a
    single century. The same scale of expenditure had been going on
    since the year 1000, and almost every parish in France had rebuilt
    its church in stone; to this day France is strewn with the ruins of
    this architecture, and yet the still preserved churches of the
    eleventh and twelfth centuries, among the churches that belong to
    the Romanesque and Transition period, are numbered by hundreds until
    they reach well into the thousands. The share of this capital which
    was--if one may use a commercial figure--invested in the Virgin
    cannot be fixed, any more than the total sum given to religious
    objects between 1000 and 1300; but in a spiritual and artistic
    sense, it was almost the whole, and expressed an intensity of
    conviction never again reached by any passion, whether of religion,
    of loyalty, of patriotism, or of wealth; perhaps never even
    parallelled by any single economic effort, except in war. Nearly
    every great church of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries belonged
    to Mary, until in France one asks for the church of Notre Dame as
    though it meant cathedral; but, not satisfied with this, she
    contracted the habit of requiring in all churches a chapel of her
    own, called in English the "Lady Chapel," which was apt to be as
    large as the church but was always meant to be handsomer; and there,
    behind the high altar, in her own private apartment, Mary sat,
    receiving her innumerable suppliants, and ready at any moment to
    step up upon the high altar itself to support the tottering
    authority of the local saint.

    Expenditure like this rests invariably on an economic idea. Just as
    the French of the nineteenth century invested their surplus capital
    in a railway system in the belief that they would make money by it
    in this life, in the thirteenth they trusted their money to the
    Queen of Heaven because of their belief in her power to repay it
    with interest in the life to come. The investment was based on the
    power of Mary as Queen rather than on any orthodox Church conception
    of the Virgin's legitimate station. Papal Rome never greatly loved
    Byzantine empresses or French queens. The Virgin of Chartres was
    never wholly sympathetic to the Roman Curia. To this day the Church
    writers--like the Abbe Bulteau or M. Rohault de Fleury--are
    singularly shy of the true Virgin of majesty, whether at Chartres or
    at Byzantium or wherever she is seen. The fathers Martin and Cahier
    at Bourges alone left her true value. Had the Church controlled her,
    the Virgin would perhaps have remained prostrate at the foot of the
    Cross. Dragged by a Byzantine Court, backed by popular insistence
    and impelled by overpowering self-interest, the Church accepted the
    Virgin throned and crowned, seated by Christ, the Judge throned and
    crowned; but even this did not wholly satisfy the French of the
    thirteenth century who seemed bent on absorbing Christ in His
    Mother, and making the Mother the Church, and Christ the Symbol.

    The Church had crowned and enthroned her almost from the beginning,
    and could not have dethroned her if it would. In all Christian art--
    sculpture or mosaic, painting or poetry--the Virgin's rank was
    expressly asserted. Saint Bernard, like John Comnenus, and probably
    at the same time (1120-40), chanted hymns to the Virgin as Queen:--

    O salutaris Virgo Stella Maris
    Generans prolem, Aequitatis solem,
    Lucis auctorem, Retinens pudorem,
    Suscipe laudem!

    Celi Regina Per quam medicina
    Datur aegretis, Gratia devotis,
    Gaudium moestis, Mundo lux coelestis,
    Spesque salutis;

    Aula regalis, Virgo specialis,
    Posce medelam Nobis et tutelam,
    Suscipe vota, Precibusque cuncta
    Pelle molesta!

    O Saviour Virgin, Star of Sea,
    Who bore for child the Son of Justice,
    The source of Light, Virgin always
    Hear our praise!

    Queen of Heaven who have given
    Medicine to the sick, Grace to the devout,
    Joy to the sad, Heaven's light to the world
    And hope of salvation;

    Court royal, Virgin typical,
    Grant us cure and guard,
    Accept our vows, and by prayers
    Drive all griefs away!

    As the lyrical poet of the twelfth century, Adam de Saint-Victor
    seems to have held rank higher if possible than that of Saint
    Bernard, and his hymns on the Virgin are certainly quite as emphatic
    an assertion of her majesty:--

    Imperatrix supernorum!
    Superatrix infernorum!
    Eligenda via coeli,
    Retinenda spe fideli,
    Separatos a te longe
    Revocatos ad te junge
    Tuorum collegio!

    Empress of the highest,
    Mistress over the lowest,
    Chosen path of Heaven,
    Held fast by faithful hope,
    Those separated from you far,
    Recalled to you, unite
    In your fold!

    To delight in the childish jingle of the mediaeval Latin is a sign
    of a futile mind, no doubt, and I beg pardon of you and of the
    Church for wasting your precious summer day on poetry which was
    regarded as mystical in its age and which now sounds like a nursery
    rhyme; but a verse or two of Adam's hymn on the Assumption of the
    Virgin completes the record of her rank, and goes to complete also
    the documentary proof of her majesty at Chartres:--

    Salve, Mater Salvatoris!
    Vas electum! Vas honoris!
    Vas coelestis Gratiae!
    Ab aeterno Vas provisum!
    Vas insigne! Vas excisum
    Manu sapientiae!

    Salve, Mater pietatis,
    Et totius Trinitatis
    Nobile Triclinium!
    Verbi tamen incarnati
    Speciale majestati
    Praeparans hospitium!

    O Maria! Stella maris!
    Dignitate singularis,
    Super omnes ordinaries
    Ordines coelestium!
    In supremo sita poli
    Nos commenda tuae proli,
    Ne terrores sive doli
    Nos supplantent hostium!

    Mother of our Saviour, hail!
    Chosen vessel! Sacred Grail!
    Font of celestial grace!
    From eternity forethought!
    By the hand of Wisdom wrought!
    Precious, faultless Vase!

    Hail, Mother of Divinity!
    Hail, Temple of the Trinity!
    Home of the Triune God!
    In whom the Incarnate Word had birth,
    The King! to whom you gave on earth
    Imperial abode.

    Oh, Maria! Constellation!
    Inspiration! Elevation!
    Rule and Law and Ordination
    Of the angels' host!
    Highest height of God's Creation,
    Pray your Son's commiseration,
    Lest, by fear or fraud, salvation
    For our souls be lost!

    Constantly--one might better say at once, officially, she was
    addressed in these terms of supreme majesty: "Imperatrix
    supernorum!" "Coeli Regina!" "Aula regalis!" but the twelfth century
    seemed determined to carry the idea out to its logical conclusion
    in defiance of dogma. Not only was the Son absorbed in the Mother, or
    represented as under her guardianship, but the Father fared no
    better, and the Holy Ghost followed. The poets regarded the Virgin
    as the "Templum Trinitatis"; "totius Trinitatis nobile Triclinium."
    She was the refectory of the Trinity--the "Triclinium"--because the
    refectory was the largest room and contained the whole of the
    members, and was divided in three parts by two rows of columns. She
    was the "Templum Trinitatis," the Church itself, with its triple
    aisle. The Trinity was absorbed in her.

    This is a delicate subject in the Church, and you must feel it with
    delicacy, without brutally insisting on its necessary
    contradictions. All theology and all philosophy are full of
    contradictions quite as flagrant and far less sympathetic. This
    particular variety of religious faith is simply human, and has made
    its appearance in one form or another in nearly all religions; but
    though the twelfth century carried it to an extreme, and at Chartres
    you see it in its most charming expression, we have got always to
    make allowances for what was going on beneath the surface in men's
    minds, consciously or unconsciously, and for the latent scepticism
    which lurks behind all faith. The Church itself never quite accepted
    the full claims of what was called Mariolatry. One may be sure, too,
    that the bourgeois capitalist and the student of the schools, each
    from his own point of view, watched the Virgin with anxious
    interest. The bourgeois had put an enormous share of, his capital
    into what was in fact an economical speculation, not unlike the
    South Sea Scheme, or the railway system of our own time; except that
    in one case the energy was devoted to shortening the road to Heaven;
    in the other, to shortening the road to Paris; but no serious
    schoolman could have felt entirely convinced that God would enter
    into a business partnership with man, to establish a sort of joint-
    stock society for altering the operation of divine and universal
    laws. The bourgeois cared little for the philosophical doubt if the
    economical result proved to be good, but he watched this result with
    his usual practical sagacity, and required an experience of only
    about three generations (1200-1300) to satisfy himself that relics
    were not certain in their effects; that the Saints were not always
    able or willing to help; that Mary herself could not certainly be
    bought or bribed; that prayer without money seemed to be quite as
    efficacious as prayer with money; and that neither the road to
    Heaven nor Heaven itself had been made surer or brought nearer by an
    investment of capital which amounted to the best part of the wealth
    of France. Economically speaking, he became satisfied that his
    enormous money-investment had proved to be an almost total loss, and
    the reaction on his mind was as violent as the emotion. For three
    hundred years it prostrated France. The efforts of the bourgeoisie
    and the peasantry to recover their property, so far as it was
    recoverable, have lasted to the present day and we had best take
    care not to get mixed in those passions.

    If you are to get the full enjoyment of Chartres, you must, for the
    time, believe in Mary as Bernard and Adam did, and feel her presence
    as the architects did, in every stone they placed, and every touch
    they chiselled. You must try first to rid your mind of the
    traditional idea that the Gothic is an intentional expression of
    religious gloom. The necessity for light was the motive of the
    Gothic architects. They needed light and always more light, until
    they sacrificed safety and common sense in trying to get it. They
    converted their walls into windows, raised their vaults, diminished
    their piers, until their churches could no longer stand. You will
    see the limits at Beauvais; at Chartres we have not got so far, but
    even here, in places where the Virgin wanted it,--as above the high
    altar,--the architect has taken all the light there was to take. For
    the same reason, fenestration became the most important part of the
    Gothic architect's work, and at Chartres was uncommonly interesting
    because the architect was obliged to design a new system, which
    should at the same time satisfy the laws of construction and the
    taste and imagination of Mary. No doubt the first command of the
    Queen of Heaven was for light, but the second, at least equally
    imperative, was for colour. Any earthly queen, even though she were
    not Byzantine in taste, loved colour; and the truest of queens--the
    only true Queen of Queens--had richer and finer taste in colour than
    the queens of fifty earthly kingdoms, as you will see when we come
    to the immense effort to gratify her in the glass of her windows.
    Illusion for illusion,--granting for the moment that Mary was an
    illusion,--the Virgin Mother in this instance repaid to her
    worshippers a larger return for their money than the capitalist has
    ever been able to get, at least in this world, from any other
    illusion of wealth which he has tried to make a source of pleasure
    and profit.

    The next point on which Mary evidently insisted was the arrangement
    for her private apartments, the apse, as distinguished from her
    throne-room, the choir; both being quite distinct from the hall, or
    reception-room of the public, which was the nave with its
    enlargements in the transepts. This arrangement marks the
    distinction between churches built as shrines for the deity and
    churches built as halls of worship for the public. The difference is
    chiefly in the apse, and the apse of Chartres is the most
    interesting of all apses from this point of view.

    The Virgin required chiefly these three things, or, if you like,
    these four: space, light, convenience; and colour decoration to
    unite and harmonize the whole. This concerns the interior; on the
    exterior she required statuary, and the only complete system of
    decorative sculpture that existed seems to belong to her churches:--
    Paris, Rheims, Amiens, and Chartres. Mary required all this
    magnificence at Chartres for herself alone, not for the public. As
    far as one can see into the spirit of the builders, Chartres was
    exclusively intended for the Virgin, as the Temple of Abydos was
    intended for Osiris. The wants of man, beyond a mere roof-cover, and
    perhaps space to some degree, enter to no very great extent into the
    problem of Chartres. Man came to render homage or to ask favours.
    The Queen received him in her palace, where she alone was at home,
    and alone gave commands.

    The artist's second thought was to exclude from his work everything
    that could displease Mary; and since Mary differed from living
    queens only in infinitely greater majesty and refinement, the artist
    could admit only what pleased the actual taste of the great ladies
    who dictated taste at the Courts of France and England, which
    surrounded the little Court of the Counts of Chartres. What they
    were--these women of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries--we shall
    have to see or seek in other directions; but Chartres is perhaps the
    most magnificent and permanent monument they left of their taste,
    and we can begin here with learning certain things which they were

    In the first place, they were not in the least vague, dreamy, or
    mystical in a modern sense;--far from it! They seemed anxious only
    to throw the mysteries into a blaze of light; not so much physical,
    perhaps,--since they, like all women, liked moderate shadow for
    their toilettes,--but luminous in the sense of faith. There is
    nothing about Chartres that you would think mystical, who know your
    Lohengrin, Siegfried, and Parsifal. If you care to make a study of
    the whole literature of the subject, read M. Male's "Art Religieux
    du XIIIe Siecle en France," and use it for a guide-book. Here you
    need only note how symbolic and how simple the sculpture is, on the
    portals and porches. Even what seems a grotesque or an abstract idea
    is no more than the simplest child's personification. On the walls
    you may have noticed the Ane qui vielle,--the ass playing the lyre;
    and on all the old churches you can see "bestiaries," as they were
    called, of fabulous animals, symbolic or not; but the symbolism is
    as simple as the realism of the oxen at Laon. It gave play to the
    artist in his effort for variety of decoration, and it amused the
    people,--probably the Virgin also was not above being amused;--now
    and then it seems about to suggest what you would call an esoteric
    meaning, that is to say, a meaning which each one of us can consider
    private property reserved for our own amusement, and from which the
    public is excluded; yet, in truth, in the Virgin's churches the
    public is never excluded, but invited. The Virgin even had the
    additional charm to the public that she was popularly supposed to
    have no very marked fancy for priests as such; she was a queen, a
    woman, and a mother, functions, all, which priests could not
    perform. Accordingly, she seems to have had little taste for
    mysteries of any sort, and even the symbols that seem most
    mysterious were clear to every old peasant-woman in her church. The
    most pleasing and promising of them all is the woman's figure you
    saw on the front of the cathedral in Paris; her eyes bandaged; her
    head bent down; her crown falling; without cloak or royal robe;
    holding in her hand a guidon or banner with its staff broken in more
    than one place. On the opposite pier stands another woman, with
    royal mantle, erect and commanding. The symbol is so graceful that
    one is quite eager to know its meaning; but every child in the
    Middle Ages would have instantly told you that the woman with the
    falling crown meant only the Jewish Synagogue, as the one with the
    royal robe meant the Church of Christ.

    Another matter for which the female taste seemed not much to care
    was theology in the metaphysical sense. Mary troubled herself little
    about theology except when she retired into the south transept with
    Pierre de Dreux. Even there one finds little said about the Trinity,
    always the most metaphysical subtlety of the Church. Indeed, you
    might find much amusement here in searching the cathedral for any
    distinct expression at all of the Trinity as a dogma recognized by

    One cannot take seriously the idea that the three doors, the three
    portals, and the three aisles express the Trinity, because, in the
    first place, there was no rule about it; churches might have what
    portals and aisles they pleased; both Paris and Bourges have five;
    the doors themselves are not allotted to the three members of the
    Trinity, nor are the portals; while another more serious objection
    is that the side doors and aisles are not of equal importance with
    the central, but mere adjuncts and dependencies, so that the
    architect who had misled the ignorant public into accepting so black
    a heresy would have deserved the stake, and would probably have gone
    to it. Even this suggestion of trinity is wanting in the transepts,
    which have only one aisle, and in the choir, which has five, as well
    as five or seven chapels, and, as far as an ignorant mind can
    penetrate, no triplets whatever. Occasionally, no doubt, you will
    discover in some sculpture or window, a symbol of the Trinity, but
    this discovery itself amounts to an admission of its absence as a
    controlling idea, for the ordinary worshipper must have been at
    least as blind as we are, and to him, as to us, it would have seemed
    a wholly subordinate detail. Even if the Trinity, too, is anywhere
    expressed, you will hardly find here an attempt to explain its
    metaphysical meaning--not even a mystic triangle.

    The church is wholly given up to the Mother and the Son. The Father
    seldom appears; the Holy Ghost still more rarely. At least, this is
    the impression made on an ordinary visitor who has no motive to be
    orthodox; and it must have been the same with the thirteenth-century
    worshipper who came here with his mind absorbed in the perfections
    of Mary. Chartres represents, not the Trinity, but the identity of
    the Mother and Son. The Son represents the Trinity, which is thus
    absorbed in the Mother. The idea is not orthodox, but this is no
    affair of ours. The Church watches over its own.

    The Virgin's wants and tastes, positive and negative, ought now to
    be clear enough to enable you to feel the artist's sincerity in
    trying to satisfy them; but first you have still to convince
    yourselves of the people's sincerity in employing the artists. This
    point is the easiest of all, for the evidence is express. In the
    year 1145 when the old fleche was begun,--the year before Saint
    Bernard preached the second crusade at Vezelay,--Abbot Haimon, of
    Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in Normandy, wrote to the monks of Tutbury
    Abbey in England a famous letter to tell of the great work which the
    Virgin was doing in France and which began at the Church of
    Chartres. "Hujus sacrae institutionis ritus apud Carnotensem
    ecclesiam est inchoatus." From Chartres it had spread through
    Normandy, where it produced among other things the beautiful spire
    which we saw at Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives. "Postremo per totam fere
    Normanniam longe lateque convaluit ac loca per singula Matri
    misericordiae dicata praecipue occupavit." The movement affected
    especially the places devoted to Mary, but ran through all Normandy,
    far and wide. Of all Mary's miracles, the best attested, next to the
    preservation of her church, is the building of it; not so much
    because it surprises us as because it surprised even more the people
    of the time and the men who were its instruments. Such deep popular
    movements are always surprising, and at Chartres the miracle seems
    to have occurred three times, coinciding more or less with the dates
    of the crusades, and taking the organization of a crusade, as
    Archbishop Hugo of Rouen described it in a letter to Bishop Thierry
    of Amiens. The most interesting part of this letter is the evident
    astonishment of the writer, who might be talking to us to-day, so
    modern is he:--

    The inhabitants of Chartres have combined to aid in the construction
    of their church by transporting the materials; our Lord has rewarded
    their humble zeal by miracles which have roused the Normans to
    imitate the piety of their neighbours ... Since then the faithful of
    our diocese and of other neighbouring regions have formed
    associations for the same object; they admit no one into their
    company unless he has been to confession, has renounced enmities and
    revenges, and has reconciled himself with his enemies. That done,
    they elect a chief, under whose direction they conduct their waggons
    in silence and with humility.

    The quarries at Bercheres-l'Eveque are about five miles from
    Chartres. The stone is excessively hard, and was cut in blocks of
    considerable size, as you can see for yourselves; blocks which
    required great effort to transport and lay in place. The work was
    done with feverish rapidity, as it still shows, but it is the
    solidest building of the age, and without a sign of weakness yet.
    The Abbot told, with more surprise than pride, of the spirit which
    was built into the cathedral with the stone:--Who has ever seen!--
    Who has ever heard tell, in times past, that powerful princes of the
    world, that men brought up in honour and in wealth, that nobles, men
    and women, have bent their proud and haughty necks to the harness of
    carts, and that, like beasts of burden, they have dragged to the
    abode of Christ these waggons, loaded with wines, grains, oil,
    stone, wood, and all that is necessary for the wants of life, or for
    the construction of the church? But while they draw these burdens,
    there is one thing admirable to observe; it is that often when a
    thousand persons and more are attached to the chariots,--so great is
    the difficulty,--yet they march in such silence that not a murmur is
    heard, and truly if one did not see the thing with one's eyes, one
    might believe that among such a multitude there was hardly a person
    present. When they halt on the road, nothing is heard but the
    confession of sins, and pure and suppliant prayer to God to obtain
    pardon. At the voice of the priests who exhort their hearts to
    peace, they forget all hatred, discord is thrown far aside, debts
    are remitted, the unity of hearts is established.

    But if any one is so far advanced in evil as to be unwilling to
    pardon an offender, or if he rejects the counsel of the priest who
    has piously advised him, his offering is instantly thrown from the
    wagon as impure, and he himself ignominiously and shamefully
    excluded from the society of the holy. There one sees the priests
    who preside over each chariot exhort every one to penitence, to
    confession of faults, to the resolution of better life! There one
    sees old people, young people, little children, calling on the Lord
    with a suppliant voice, and uttering to Him, from the depth of the
    heart, sobs and sighs with words of glory and praise! After the
    people, warned by the sound of trumpets and the sight of banners,
    have resumed their road, the march is made with such ease that no
    obstacle can retard it ... When they have reached the church they
    arrange the wagons about it like a spiritual camp, and during the
    whole night they celebrate the watch by hymns and canticles. On each
    waggon they light tapers and lamps; they place there the infirm and
    sick, and bring them the precious relics of the Saints for their
    relief. Afterwards the priests and clerics close the ceremony by
    processions which the people follow with devout heart, imploring the
    clemency of the Lord and of his Blessed Mother for the recovery of
    the sick.

    Of course, the Virgin was actually and constantly present during all
    this labour, and gave her assistance to it, but you would get no
    light on the architecture from listening to an account of her
    miracles, nor do they heighten the effect of popular faith. Without
    the conviction of her personal presence, men would not have been
    inspired; but, to us, it is rather the inspiration of the art which
    proves the Virgin's presence, and we can better see the conviction
    of it in the work than in the words. Every day, as the work went on,
    the Virgin was present, directing the architects, and it is this
    direction that we are going to study, if you have now got a
    realizing sense of what it meant. Without this sense, the church is
    dead. Most persons of a deeply religious nature would tell you
    emphatically that nine churches out of ten actually were dead-born,
    after the thirteenth century, and that church architecture became a
    pure matter of mechanism and mathematics; but that is a question for
    you to decide when you come to it; and the pleasure consists not in
    seeing the death, but in feeling the life.

    Now let us look about!
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