Bleu de Chartres – Day Trip From Paris
The Gothic age brought larger windows, more light and color into the place of Christian worship. The style is called “flamboyant” and it’s purpose was to strike the humble human with awe in order to render him (or her) pious and an avid believer.
In addition to bringing in light, the stained glass windows educated the masses (the printing press had not yet been invented), with the scenes of biblical stories and other saints’ lives told through the brightly colored images.
Stained glass windows, vitraux in French, are abundant in the cathedral of Chartres. And the vitraux are abundantly blue (among other vibrant and beautiful colors).
The particularity of the Chartres azure, has a lot to do with cost as well as chemistry. The blue color that is attributed to the town, is slightly less vibrant than “cobalt blue”, it’s moderately a softer blue.
It’s no longer the same original blue on every single stained-glass window in the cathedral, but it is still apparent.
At the rise of the Gothic period in the 13th century (the 1200’s), stained glass became popular and in high demand. Therefor, the products which came from far off places, needed to make it saw a rise in price. In order to counter this rise in price on the construction of the cathedral of Chartres, the products were purchased closer to home and thus the natural composition was slightly different, giving a slightly modified hue.
Scilice is the main ingredient, that creates a vitrified material. Other mineral oxides aid the creation and make the colors. Cobalt and manganese oxide are the materials used to create hues of blue. The manganese was easier to find and closer to home, for the construction of Chartres, and so they mixed it with cobalt (which came from father eastern regions of Europe) to lessen the financial burden caused by the need for so many stained glass windows. The mixture gave a color that now has it’s own name.
A visit to Chartres is a great idea for a day trip outside of Paris. Trains go there every day from the Gare de Montparnasse.
In addition to the stunning stained-glass windows, you can also see Notre dame sous terre, a statue of the virgin that is underground in the crypt where the Roman foundations are. You can also see the veil of the Virgin Mary, and Notre dame du pillier a statue of the virgin Mary dating to the 16th century that is often referred to as the “black virgin” because of the dark color of the wood which comes from a pear tree.