A Structural Description of Chartres Cathedral in France

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Updated: Jun 28, 2022
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At the bottom of the western façade of Chartres Cathedral, there is a triple portal entrance. Above each portal is a tympanum, and above each tympanum is a large lancet window. The triple portal has a tower on the North and South sides, each with 3 pairs of lancet windows, and in the middle of the pairs is a buttress. Above the triple lancet window in the middle of the façade is the rose window, which is lined with tracery.

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Above the rose window is an outdoor gallery. The North tower at gallery level has more lancet windows. On top of the tower is a spire, with crockets lining it. The South tower has multiple lancet windows below its spire. Above each of these windows is a pinnacle. The layout of the interior is pretty typical for a gothic church. Starting at the west end, just inside the portals, is the narthex, or porch. Past this is the nave, and on the north and south sides of the nave are the aisles. In the middle of the nave is the labyrinth. Going east from the nave is the crossing which lies in the middle of the nave, choir, and transepts.

The transepts are on the north and south sides of the crossing, and both transepts have aisles of their own, on the west and east sides. To the east of the crossing is the choir, which begins the chancel. The chancel extends from this choir to the far eastern part of the church. Past the choir is the apse, which is the curved part of the church. Lining the wall of the apse is the ambulatory, which is the walkway. Past the ambulatory are 7 radiating chapels, with 3 larger ones, 2 medium sized ones on the ends, and 2 small ones between each large one. At the ground floor of the church, on the inside, is the columns that support most of the ceiling and interior weight of the building. The largest, most sturdy columns are at the four corners of the crossing. The towers are also built very sturdy and bulky to hold up the immense weight of themselves. On the exterior, extending from ground level to the top of the building are buttresses that line the church on all sides. Going up about 1/3 of the way of the columns is an arcade of pointed arches spanning between each column. Above the arcade is the triforium. Above this is multiple clerestory windows, between the columns.

The clerestory windows are inside pointed arches. On the exterior, this is where the flying buttresses are that extend from the buttresses to the walls. Above this is the roof. The builders of Chartres had three main innovation that allowed them to build taller and instead of to the sides. This allowed the builders to build much larger arches with much greater stability. This also allowed them to add more windows to the building, as less space was needed for load-bearing walls. The next most prominent innovation was the flying buttress. These are found on the exterior and interior of the building, and were found typically where the pointed outward. They also allowed the buttresses to be away from the walls. These also allowed taller windows, taller buildings, and added cheap, easy-to-build structural support. The last of these innovations was rib vaults on the ceiling of the church. These redirected weight from straight downward to over the columns. This allows for fewer columns to be needed, and taller and wider buildings to be built.

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A Structural Description of Chartres Cathedral in France. (2022, Jun 26). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-structural-description-of-chartres-cathedral-in-france/