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Iconography on Chartres Cathedral

Updated on July 2, 2014
Chartres Cathedral in evening light
Chartres Cathedral in evening light

I chose to look at Chartres, & more directly the Rose windows. In Paris from 1140-1240 C.E. there were 10 cathedrals in Europe; Cathedral Notre-Dame de Chartres was finished in 1260(although some report that it was finished between 1235 & 1240) & a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary & John the Baptist back in the 13th century. For more of a background the Latin Cross floor plan, nave, choir & transepts meet at the cathedral's' central crossing. 3 pointed arches create a rib vault for more spacious interiors; giving a greater impression of height to it. Flying buttresses on the outside were arch shaped supports which put the immense weight into the ground to support the walls.

South Portal - Chartres
South Portal - Chartres

In being dedicated to Mary & John the Baptist, the Catholic Church used the cathedral itself & the windows to portray the story of the Bible, the figures in the story & the meanings behind it.

For the windows - the stained glass helped "create a multi-colored & gem like interior to invoke the Heavenly Jerusalem" as said in the book of Revelation (from mod 10 reading- symbols & iconography). There are 176 windows total in Chartres; 3 of them Rose windows.

According to, there are 158 - 170 total windows from early in the 13th century which escaped destruction front he religious wars in the 16th century. The West window is early 13th century & the 3 lancets are c. 1150. These are on the Last Judgment. The Rose itself is Christ surrounded by 4 Evangelists & angels, some blasting trumpet; resurrection, judgment, heaven & hell are a part of what's portrayed. The left lancet is about Passion & Resurrection; middle is Incarnation & right one is Jesse.

The North Rose - has 5 lancets & these were a gift from Queen Blanche of Castille in 1230. The Rose is the Glorification of the Virgin; Virgin & Child with angels & doves surrounding them; Old Testament Kings & Prophets. The Lancets are from left to right – Melchizadek & King Saul, Kings David & Jeroboam, St. Anne & infant, Mary with arms of Royal House of France, King Solomon & Nebuchadnezzar & finally Aaron & Pharaoh.

North Rose window
North Rose window

The South Rose – also with 5 lancers is from the late 1230’s. The Rose itself is the Glorification of Christ. Christ is surrounded by 4 Evangelists & angels; elders of Apocalypse; arms of donors to the cathedral. Lancers are from left to right- Evangelist Luke over prophet Jeremiah, Evangelist Matthew over prophet Isiah, the Virgin & Child, and Evangelist John over prophet Ezekiel & Evangelist Mark over Prophet Daniel.

South Rose window
South Rose window has a slightly different take on the windows & meanings. For the West, it’s agreed that it’s about the Last Judgment, which is said to be traditionally the theme for direction, but the center is Christ as Judge, & the outer rings as the dead emerging from their tombs & angels summoning the judgment.

North has the kings in 12 diamond openings, followed by the coat of arms of France & Castille as separate entities & last the Old Testimate prophets holding scrolls. Sign of patronage are the Kings’ shown by yellow fleur-de-lis on blue background & his mother, Blanche of Castille, as the yellow castles on a red backing.

Chartres - An example of French Gothic Architecture

© 2014 Jennifer B


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