Saturday, December 27, 2014

More on Chartres

The New Liturgical Movement blog has published another view of the renovations at Chartres, from someone familiar with the effort:

Many NLM readers will be familiar with the cathedral of Chartres as the destination of the Péle, the Pentecost pilgrimage organized by Notre-Dame de Chrétienté (Our Lady of Christendom). Every year several thousand Catholics from all over the world walk together the 60 miles that separate Paris from Chartres. The cathedral can be seen from miles around, like a beacon rising from the rolling green fields of the landscape. It is truly a breathtaking sight.

The great cathedral at Chartres is not only an important Catholic centre for France, It is also one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture. Chartres defines the archetype of what a Gothic cathedral should be. It’s proportions, arches, stained glass windows, spires, sculptures, are what all other Gothic churches in France are measured against.

The building has had a fortunately uneventful history. It survived the French Revolution almost unscathed, when churches such as Notre-Dame de Paris were plundered, vandalized or repurposed. It was also heroically saved from bombing during World War II by an American Army Officer. This makes the cathedral of Chartres one of the best preserved 13th century Gothic churches in France.

The author describes the restoration and approves of it:

The design painted on the vaults and walls of the cathedral was a simple one, a light ochre background over which lines were painted in white to simulate masonry. One of reasons medieval builders did this was to cover up any irregularities or faults in the actual stonework, and give the interior a tidy, continuous finish, with an appearance of strength and quality. Over time, this first rendering was darkened by dust, soot and grime. With the passing of the centuries the walls and vaults were whitewashed to give the interior a cleaner look. These washes were fairly thin, and so with time, the lines beneath them started to appear. This factor, coupled with more soot and grime, made the visitor believe that what he was seeing was actual stone.

The aim of the restoration in progress is to uncover these original decorations. I believe that most specialists agree that 13th-century mural decorations have the same historic importance as 13th century stained glass. Therefore, I find that the effort to clean, consolidate and preserve them very laudable. . . .

The vaults of the sanctuary, ambulatory and choir have been cleaned and reintegrated, while the rest of the nave remains a dark grimy gray. The contrast is enormous. Restoration has also concluded on the 18th century decorations of the sanctuary, including gilding and faux marble.

And then he discusses the critics:

Everybody is entitled to an opinion, and, in the case of these gentlemen, it’s the way they make their living. I would certainly not argue against criticism towards some of the criteria applied in Chartres. For example, one could argue endlessly on the manner and degree in which the walls were cleaned, or on if they should have reintegrated the missing parts using a muted color instead of reproducing the masonry motif, or if the vision of the stained glass has been distorted by a too bright interior.

Mr Filler, fueled by the feeling of disappointment during his last visit, accuses the team lead by Frédéric Didier, of repainting the cathedral in what he terms “garish”colors. He doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that what we see today has been there for the past 800 years. He is keen on the idea that what he saw when he last visited Chartres 30 years ago was not an accumulation of grime and soot over this decorations, but actual stone.

Read the rest there. I thought you should see another opinion--and the post cites two other specialists' reactions to the criticisms of the restoration I had posted earlier. One point we should always remember about these great cathedrals is that whatever their historic and artistic value, they are primarily for the worship of Almighty God, for prayer and praise and sacrifice.

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