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Compare/contrast three Gothic cathedrals

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Chartres Cathedral
A Digital Archive of Architecture - High Gothic
Earthlore Gothic Dreams - Cathedral Architecture
  Discuss those three works:
Using art vocabulary when evaluating art, compare and contrast the works including materials used, style, meaning, symbolism, and any other aesthetic issues concerning the art you have chosen. Each student participating should discuss aspects of each of the works chosen.
Explain how the works of art fit into the context of the time period. Keep in mind that only art works that fit into the period of the Middle Ages - Renaissance (created between 1350-1520 AC).

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Chartres Cathedral
A Digital Archive of Architecture - High Gothic
Earthlore Gothic Dreams - Cathedral Architecture
  Discuss those three works:
Using art vocabulary when evaluating art, compare and contrast the works including materials used, style, meaning, symbolism, and any other aesthetic issues concerning the art you have chosen. Each student participating should discuss aspects of each of the works chosen.
Explain how the works of art fit into the context of the time period. Keep in mind that only art works that fit into the period of the Middle Ages - Renaissance (created between 1350-1520 AC).

I am going to answer the questions, but I am also copying and pasting the relevant information about each Gothic Cathedral here on this solution document, so that you may read about each to be prepared for any discussion in class, and so that you can add thoughts, ideas and comments of your own to my beginning answers, in order to add your own voice, opinions and thoughts to the answers.
Information from the following Web site regarding Chartres Cathedral, also known as Chartres Notre Dame, (there's another Notre Dame in Paris): http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/chartres-cathedral
Chartres Cathedral (full name Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres) is located in the medieval town of Chartres, about 50 miles from Paris.
Not only is Chartres Cathedral one of the greatest achievements in the history of architecture, it is almost perfectly preserved in its original design and details. Chartres' extensive cycle of portal sculpture remains fully intact and its glowing stained-glass windows are all originals. Chartres is thus the only cathedral that conveys an almost perfect image of how it looked when it was built.
In addition to its architectural splendor, Chartres Cathedral has been a major pilgrimage destination since the early Middle Ages. Its venerable history, exquisitely preserved architecture, and centuries of fervent devotion make for an atmosphere of awe and holiness that impresses even the most nonreligious of visitors.
History
According to tradition, Chartres Cathedral has housed the tunic of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sancta Camisia, since 876. The relic was said to have been given to the cathedral by Charlemagne, who received it as a gift during a trip to Jerusalem. Because of this relic, Chartres has been a very important Marian pilgrimage center and the faithful still come from the world over to honor it.
The present cathedral is one of several French Gothic masterpieces built because fire had destroyed its predecessors. After the first cathedral of any great substance burnt down in 1020, a glorious new Romanesque basilica with a massive crypt was built under the direction of Bishop Fulbert and later Geoffroy de Lèves.
The cathedral survived a fire in 1134 that destroyed much of the rest of the town, but was not so lucky on the night of June 10, 1194, when lightning ignited a great fire that destroyed all but the west towers, the façade and the crypt.
The people despaired when it seemed that the Sancta Camisia had also perished in the fire. But three days later it was found unharmed in the treasury, which the bishop proclaimed was a sign from Mary herself that another, even more magnificent, cathedral should be built in Chartres. Donations came in from all over France and rebuilding began almost immediately in 1194. The people of Chartres volunteered to haul the necessary stone from quarries 5 miles away.
The construction project used the plans laid out by the first architect in order to preserve the harmonious aspect of the cathedral. Work began first on the nave and by 1220 the main structure was complete, with the old crypt, the west towers and the west facade incorporated into the new building. On October 24, 1260, the cathedral was finally dedicated in the presence of King Louis IX and his family.
Chartres Cathedral was never destroyed nor looted during the French Revolution and the numerous restorations never have altered its glorious beauty. It always stayed the same: a great triumph of Gothic art. The cathedral was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.
What to See
General Exterior
From a distance Chartres Cathedral seems to hover in mid-air above fields of wheat; it is only when one draws closer that the city comes into view, clustering around the hill on which the cathedral stands.
The plan of the Gothic cathedral is a Latin cross with three aisles, a short transept and an ambulatory. The rounded east end has five semi-circular radiating chapels.
The high nave is supported by double flying buttresses, anchored by colonnettes and great abutments. The latter were lightened in appearance with niches filled with sculptures. An extra row of single flying buttresses supported the apse from the beginning and a third row was added in the 14th century.
Chartres was the first building on which buttresses were used as a structural element that determined the overall external appearance of the building. They were necessitated by the unprecedented size of the clerestory windows and the height of the nave.
The only aspect detracting from Chartres Cathedral's elegant symmetry are the mismatched west spires. The south spire is a 349-foot (105m) plain Romanesque pyramid dating from the 1140s, while the north is a 377-foot (113m) early 16th-century Flamboyant Gothic spire on top of an older tower.
In additon to the famed west front, both transepts have large rose windows, flanking towers and three sculptured portals each. This design was modeled on the rose-windowed transepts at Laon Cathedral, but the three-portal layout is unique to Chartres. In total, Chartres Cathedral has nine portals, including three salvaged from the earlier cathedral on the west portal.
North Portal (c.1230): Old Testament
The north portal, recently cleaned of industrial grime, illustrates the Old Testament and the Virgin Mary as precursors and preparations for Christ. Between the doors in the central portal is a statue of St. Anne holding an infant Mary. Below her feet, Joachim once tended his flocks but has mostly disappeared. In 1204, Chartres received a relic of the head of St. Anne from Constantinople; the central statue was probably added in honor of it.
The statues on the right side of the central bay, from left to right, are:
Isaiah, who prophesied that " there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (Isaiah 11:1). He once held the flowering stem; a small figure of Jesse is below him.
Jeremiah, who prophesied the Passion, holds a Greek cross and has an attentive listener beneath his feet.
Simeon, the priest to whom Christ was presented at the temple, holds the Child in his arms.
John the Baptist, thin from fasting, wears his camel hair tunic and points to a medallion of the Lamb of God; a dragon is beneath his feet.
On the far right is St. Peter dressed as a pope. He once held a chalice as well as his keys and pastoral staff.
In the shadows on the right is Elijah standing on the wheels of his chariot, with Elisha catching his mantle below.
Of special note among the other figures is the Holy Modesta, an elegant female figure with a happy, seductive smile, and a fat King Solomon in the right-hand portal. Among the Old Testament narrative scenes is a fascinating depiction of the creation of mankind, showing Adam emerging from behind the head of God as the divine idea becomes reality, then ...

Solution Summary

Discussion of three Gothic cathedrals: Chartres, Cologne, Mont St. Michel

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