Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Repainting Chartres Cathedral

A post on the Medieval Religion discussion group draws attention to a highly critical online article about the repainting of the interior of Chartres Cathedral. The article in question, which has some illustrations, can be seen at http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/dec/14/scandalous-makeover-chartres/

Not having visited Chartres since this project began I am not well placed to comment on the project. A couple of years ago in Restoration at Chartres I drew attention to criticism and defence of this work as it was then being undertaken, and the couple of comments that attracted indicate the diversity of opinion about the matter. Indeed the second almost anticipates the comments of the author of the recent article.

I am still inclined to favour the renewal of the original scheme, if that can be reliably reconstructed, and the point has been made on the discussion group that given the nature of modern artificial lighting - clearly very different from what was available in the middle ages - that maybe that should be adjusted when teh scheme is finished.

Keeping things as they are in such buildings is tempting, but may well be unhistorical, and little better than managed decline.

1 comment:

Pelerin said...

I visited Chartres cathedral in September this year - the first time for several years. I am so glad that I saw it years ago before this new makeover.

On my first visit the contrast between the black interior walls and the magnificent stained glass was stunning - I was mesmerised and transfixed by the beauty of the windows. This time I turned towards the interior wall over the main doors to look at the Rose window there and was shocked. The wall was now ochre coloured and there was hardly any contrast between it and the glass. The contrast had in fact disappeared.

The statue of Notre Dame du Pilier left me speechless too. Over the years countless candles had been lit and prayers said, turning the statue of Mother and Child black. Now it has been cleaned and the faces look doll like and a sign says no candles are to be lit. Instead there are some electric ones nearby. By this time I was reduced to tears.

All French cathedrals are owned by the State and I presume they are funding this clean up of the walls. I am just so glad I still remember the impact of my initial first visit.

Incidentally postcards of the windows are on sale there and the windows are depicted on a black background which is perfect for showing them off unlike the light coloured walls of the newly cleaned cathedral.