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Catholic Dictionary




The most admired of all the French cathedrals, situated in the flat country of Beauce, forty-eight miles southwest of Paris. It is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. In the upper church is the chapel of Our Lady of the Pillar and in the lower church one honoring "Virgini Pariturae," at which it is said the Druids paid honor to the seated virgin with a child on her knees, in the small grotto that enclosed her. Early in A.D. 300 a Christian church was built over that grotto. In 1195 the present cathedral was begun and was finally completed in A.D. 1250. The stained-glass jeweled windows represent in detail the life and perfections of Mary, Virgin and Mother. Chartres also has Mary's own veil to show pilgrims, contained in a magnificent reliquary. This relic belonged to Charlemagne (742-814), who had it transferred from Aachen to Chartres in 876. The second outstanding relic of Chartres is the statue of the Black Virgin, the "Notre Dame-du-Pilier" in the upper church, the Mother holding her Infant Son on the left while her right hand holds a gold scepter. The niche that holds them is filled with token hearts of hold, offerings for the cures wrought over the centuries through Mary's intercession.