Chartres Cathedral

Example of Gothic style: Chartres Cathedral, France (1145-1220)

  • Building began in 1145 in the Romanesque style
  • A fire destroyed this building in 1194 and a new choir was built by 1221
  • Over the years the style of building in France had changed
  • The north tower was finished over 300 years after the south tower, built in the flamboyant Gothic style
  • The whole building consecrated in 1260 as one of the most compelling expressions of the strength of medieval Catholicism



  • One of the first Cathedrals to make use of flying buttresses
  • Flying buttresses allowed the builders to build higher and with thinner walls and pillars. They could also include glass in the walls, introducing more light into the interior
  • The exterior is decorated with three large rose windows (one on each transept and another one over the west portal)
  • The west portal is one of the first Gothic doorways In France
  • It contains three triangular tympanums
  • The centre is devoted to Christ in Majesty
  • Statues of kings and queens from the Old Testament stand around the portals



  • Cruciform shaped with central aisle and transepts
  • Ribbed vaults were more effective in the distribution of weight from the roof, so they no longer needed heavy walls
  • Pointed arches also enabled them to build higher and with more elegance



  • Why do you think the Catholic Church built such elaborate and impressive churches?
  • Why did they want to build higher into the sky?
  • Do you think the sculptures had a purpose beyond decoration?
  • Why was the west portal the most elaborately decorated entrance?



Study a number of different rose windows and examine how the pattern is created.

Design and create your own rose window using perspex plastic or acetate.

  1. Use your compass to draw a circle.
  2. Create a symmetrical pattern within the circle using your ruler.
  3. Trace your pattern onto the Perspex using a permanent marker. You can place the perspex over the drawing in order to trace it.
  4. Use transparent glass paint and outliner to complete your stained glass rose window.

Materials: A3 paper, a compass, ruler, pencil, permanent marker, sheet of A3 perspex or acetate, glass paint, and glass filler

A rose window could also be created by cutting the pattern out of black paper and placing it over a window.

This is a good exercise in positive and negative space.


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