A lapsed Catholic & an agnostic visit Chartres

Our next stop after Paris was Chartres for its cathedral, considered one of Western architecture’s crowning achievements. Or something. The GPS said it was a 58 minute drive from where we were in Paris although of course the GPS doesn’t know Paris drivers and so it was a 2 hour drive. But we got out ok with less grey hairs than getting in, and followed the motorway south. We’d booked the Novotel because we wanted something clean and predictable, which it was. Check in and out were both a respectable midday and we used the full 24 hours, partly to act like tourists (visit the cathedral) and partly to act like locals (go to the laundromat and the supermarket, which took longer).

First, we ate our panini looking up at this. Shame about the scaffolding but then we realised we have never seen a famous church without it.

The interior blew our minds. But this bit of cloth is especially important because it’s the cathedral’s reason to exist. Yes, this is (part of) the veil Mary wore when she gave birth to Jesus. It’s been in the cathedral since 850 or something like that, which is why they made it so huge – so all the pilgrims could come and visit it.

This is looking down at one of the terraces beneath the cathedral, but it’s a replica of the one paved inside. The idea is to travel slowly and thoughtfully and figure out the meaning of life’s journey. A lot of people were doing this inside the church, some were holding candles and some were barefoot. I didn’t watch enough to see what happened when two people ran into each other and it sounds less moving than it actually was.

Seriously this place was amazing and brilliant, even for heathens like us.

Chartres was also where we finally found summer, although we had no idea what we were in for…


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