John Henry Adams wrote a brilliant "meditation" on Chartres around 1877. His notes were compiled into a book titled Mont Saint Michel and Chartres.
I read it last year before arriving at Chartres on pilgrimage. This week, I am reading it for a second time with greater appreciation.
The first three pages of the introduction are at the bottom of this blog.
Adams thought about the Gothic portrayal of Christ and why this crucifixion scene and others might have been depicted without much blood (just a few light drops) or a crown of thorns like the one on the right. He considered how the people of that era were so engrossed in violence and death. "The church," he wrote, "seems not to have felt the need of appealing habitually to terror, the promise of hope and happiness was enough." They chose to focus on the heavenly Jerusalem where all wrongs are righted and the just are reunited with God and intercede on our behalf.
You'll note that in the scene selected for paint, Christ is portrayed as lifeless and pale. We can discern that His earthly mission was finished and that He had freed the souls and ascended to the Father and to His appointed Throne of Glory, "leaving behind" Mary, his mother, St John and the rest of his disciples. But he does not forget them and in fact before ascending he assures them that He has a new mission for all of them and especially for Mary, as detailed at Chartres in stained glass and statuary.
One cannot enter Chartres without eventually noting who is "in charge" of this grand court (as John Adams has suggested). It is the Queen Mother.
In his book, Adams loves to dwell on the Virgin's interest in the construction and decorating of her earthly palace of Notre Dame. He details what she wishes us to experience and how she desires us to respond.
Further, the Virgin, as Adams fondly calls her, is a loving mother who understands sorrow and wants her people to know that all of their human sacrifices, strife and suffering will not be in vain. Chartres is a place meant to offer hope to every generation and Mary remains its crowned Queen.
The 7-8th-century laud, O Gloriosa Domina, proclaimed the glories of Mary in relation to her maternal role.
The 12th-century text, libellus de laudibus beatae mariae virginis, first attributed to Ernaludus of Chartres and then propagated extensively, is one source describing the Virgin Mary's intercessory role as Mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Christians turn to Mary, knowing that Christ can refuse nothing that his mother wants. Mary then turns to her son, playing the card of maternity in the certainty that the Father will grant all that His Son asks" (Timothy Verdon).
The window's blue glass symbolizes the biblical Sapphire and is a feature that Adams and many others have detailed. The formula for this type of glass has been lost and it's quality and beauty have never been equally replicated they say.
Blue glass, in general, has the ability to dominate wherever it is used. Artists subdued the blue by blocking it in with shapes and complimentary colors.
Depending on the time of day, windows look differently and that depends on the intensity of the light rays and the way the colors blend together or variegate. This effect can never be adequately represented with paint or even artificial lights.
No other medium is so brilliant; not even mosaic sprinkled with gold. This is why the medieval artists chose glass "tapestry" over mosaic; it was and still remains an effective means to express the illuminating brilliance and continual presence of God.