Royal Portal of Chartres

The Royal Portal in the west facade
of Chartres cathedral dates to 1145.

Chartres cathedral (1145-1220)

Christ in Majesty aureole at Royal Portal of Chartres: Still romanesque in its ornamental richness, the Royal Portal, sculpted about 1145-50, already augurs the Gothic portals by the presence of its great statues. Christ in Majesty sits enthroned in the central tympanum, while two angels at the top of the arch bring the royal crown. The subjects of this portal describe the "Kingdom of God" temporally and spatially. The central composition was inspired by the Apocalypse of Saint John. By 1145, Christ and the Four Animals was already an ancient theme. But here the three-dimensional sculpture asserts itself and serenity replaces the somewhat wild character of the earlier tympanums. The sculptor chose a somewhat banal human model for his "Christ", and then breathed a supernatural majesty into it. The Apostles line up on the lintel and in the arch near the angels. The 24 ancients hold their musical instruments, faithfully reproducing those then in use. The Royal Portal had a leading influence on art, far beyond the frontiers of France.

— Jean Villette, Chartres and its Cathedral, Arthaud, Grenoble, France, 1975, pp. 61-63

Note: In the summer of 1979, I was invited by the French government to the University of Paris, Orsay for a 6-week workshop on "Protein Folding". We had a holiday on August 15, 1979 for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. I took the train from Paris to Chartres that day and witnessed the parading of the "Virgin's Veil" from Chartres Cathedral around the town. I purchased Villette's book and the Chartres postcards on that occasion, and spent the whole day admiring this beautiful artistic wonder.

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (2-14-2002)