The City of Chartres, France
Chartres is a commune and capital of the Eure-et-Loir department in France. It is located 96 km (60 mi) southwest of Paris. This city is well known for its cathedral.
In 2014, I was able to walk the city of Chartres and view this really spectacular light show. It brought to life the old Chartres, ancient Gothic cathedral in so many ways.They say that many of the buildings and statues were originally painted in brilliant colors like this, including the churches. Of course the paint has long since worn away but just imagine!
While there, I took over 1000 photographs. ALL of the restoration work is absolutely gorgeous and not out of line with what Chartres has been doing for century upon century to keep this church going and relevant.
If tourists want to see old, beaten, musty, dilapidated and weathered looking churches and statues within the city, there are those too.
The Story of the "Black Madonna"
When I read this take on the Chartres Statue which is circulating all over the internet, I was taken aback. Honestly. A perusal of google, led me to similar stories.
The "official" Black Madonna is actually located in the crypt. View it below.
MY brief 2014 post. I must sort through my archives stash to find more tidbits about the statues from Chartres to post in the future. One item: The dark grayish color, referred to as black, was added sometime after the 19th century and was the first layer to be removed in the restoration process.
The 12-13thcentury, La Moerenta of Catalonia (The Little Black One) is classified among the Black Virgin or Madonna images. Overall, the dark coloring of the wood was caused by the burning of devotional candles and soot directly beneath the image which eventually permeated the wood, giving it the famous onyx-like lustre or patina. One author describes it as having been "retouched" during at least one refurbishment period. Not at all uncommon for these as they grow old. Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Polish black icon, was damaged by fire, soot and "restoration' of the features and this accounts for its revered although unusual appearance. It would have looked more like the Icon of Iveron initially.
NOTRE-DAME LA BLANCHE (the one that the author made reference to) is a standard type French "Enthroned Queen", with Jesus seated center. These types date from the Byzantine era. Often he will hold a globe as will Our Lady. Ii used to be pure white , but looks like it needs a little cleaning up in this old photograph. Is that allowed?
Thoughts About the Article
1. First off, please learn about the author who wrote this article.
2. Did the author actually visit Chartres? The photographs are all stock images and he cites a lot of "experts". But I don't see the most famous onsite Chartres expert of all quoted and that is the honorary Malcolm Miller of Chartres.
3. The French people refer to this statue as Our Lady of the Pillar and it was carved in the sixteenth century. The statue was in bad shape and dirty with acidic grime before its repair. Much of the paint had chipped off. The restoration work RECREATED its original appearance.
4. Within the concluding paragraph the writer notes : "To illustrate the complexity of the controversy, it should be noted that the statue was commissioned as a copy of a much-admired earlier Madonna. Her name? Notre-Dame la Blanche — Our Lady the White One."
The author does not go on to explain why he ends the article like this. Especially since the Chartres statue in question is not really the renowned Black Madonna of Chartres (that one is located in the crypt, see photo above). So. Was he just being playful with his black and white contrast?
The famous Notre Dame de Blanche which means white in English is pictured above.
A. Symbolism. It is more than what you "see" on the surface. In a medieval way of looking at the world, white can symbolize Mary's purity of body and soul and not necessarily her skin color.
B. Blanche c'est "Blanche de Castille". Queen of France. She was partially responsible for the building of this Cathedral.
C. A famous white marble statue. Shown a the bottom of this page. It really doesn't resemble Our Lady of the Pillar. LINK
D. There is a Chapel Notre Dame de la Blanche Church in Guérande, France.
E. Is he playing the race card for popular effect. That would be reprehensible and reckless.
5. Souvenir cards of the Pillar statue were available, in both the before and after restoration in 2014. However, everyone knows that bookstores and gift shops update stock and when they run out of a particular item they might not reorder in favor of something newer and better selling. I rather doubt that the church purposefully pulled the before restoration card-stock as the author possibly implied in his story.
6. In the article it states "We do not know the names of those who planned and built the Cathedral at Chartres".
Even before this early Gothic cathedral was built, Chartres was a place of pilgrimage and there were ancient churches located where the cathedral we see today now stands.
After a fire destroyed most of the existing structure in 1194, work began on a the current cathedral, under the direction of Bishop Regnault de Moucon and the cathedral Chapter. Kings, Queens (like Blanche of Castile) and others greatly influenced its direction and artistic themes.
7. Churches all over the world are constantly updating, repairing and restoring their buildings and collections. It is hard to please everyone.
There was a great book published on the restoration of the "IMMAGINE ANTICA' of Santa Maria Maggiore. The piece shown below was in a deteriorating state. The grime was removed, cracks were repaired and worm holes filled.Then the original paint colors and gold were professionally reapplied. It was completed in a similar way as OUR LADY OF THE PILLAR at Chartres.
At one point in Chartres article the author quotes a medieval art historian from Harvard who commented that there is "no reason to be nostalgic or romantic about the dirt.”
Wish the author was more upfront about his actual knowledge of the subject and reasons for writing the piece.
Notes, Art, Photography CMJENTZ ©2013-2018
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