Being a Pilgrim
at the Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral
A very personal choice – A journey with thousands of people
Chartres is one of the great Christian pilgrimages – turned towards Mary and towards Christ. People come to this privileged place to seek the true face of their faith. A personal choice rooted in a long history, but which remains more relevant than ever. On foot, by bus, by train, by bicycle…
At the heart of the message: the warm abandonment to the Virgin Mary, who is seen here under different faces: Our Lady of the Pillar, Our Lady of Underground, Our Lady of the Beautiful Verrière, Veil of the Virgin. The pilgrim ‘geography’ of the cathedral has not changed in 150 years. Mary welcomes the prayers of those who come to her.
Today, groups come from all over the world, young and old alike.
The relic formerly known as the “shirt” and now called the Veil of the Virgin was given to the Church of Chartres, around 876, by Charles the Bald. Its fame contributed to the development of the pilgrimage. It was said that she had worn this garment on the day of Christ’s birth. Chartres thus became the place among all to pray to the Incarnation – the coming of God to Earth. Great saints have come here, among the crowd of anonymous people: St. Vincent de Paul, St. Francis de Sales, the parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, St. John Paul II…
The Chartres pilgrimage is associated with the Beauce region, which impresses with its flat horizon. Two arrows, an indelible sign, towards which one advances. A field of wheat, a column of walkers. Great celebrations in the cathedral, culmination of efforts and moment of intense prayer.
Another face of the pilgrimage, more difficult to describe, because everything happens essentially in the secret of hearts: reversals of existence, precious moments when one feels a loving presence, decisive forgiveness touching the most intimate fractures of the personality, silent abandonment to the word of God, life choices. It is difficult to qualify and quantify these thousands of personal steps that are so many acts of faith.
Our pilgrims say it: “Chartres” obliges them to take a stand, in full awareness and total freedom: “to tear oneself away from one’s daily life, to force oneself to take off”, “to ask oneself where one stands”, “to get out of one’s little restful patterns”, “to collapse there, in order to know”. More than ever, the reflection of the adventurer Guy de Larigaudie, in the 1930s, remains relevant: “When you are alone in Paris, with two free days ahead of you, go to Chartres, you will come back better.”
The pilgrimage experience? The decision to set out (or even to take the train…) and to leave one’s habits behind. The need for personal discernment, enlightened in turn by the sharing of experiences, intellectual reflection, the emotion of heart to heart with Christ, group prayer. The contemplation of nature on the way. The time spent (re)discovering the Bible. The acceptance of one’s inner frailties. The strength of a place that welcomes you.
The diversity of songs and ways of praying, the spiritual sensitivities: the Chartres pilgrimages are colored by the personalities and spiritualities of the pilgrims: an extreme diversity of atmosphere that is found throughout the days and which is an opportunity.
AND YOU: what are you looking for?
The pilgrimage can be experienced personally, with family, or with friends: in front of Our Lady of the Pillar, Our Lady of the Beautiful Glasshouse or the Veil of the Virgin, a time of prayer…
The labyrinth, which dates back to the 13th century, is an authentic ‘inner’ pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage is a reflection of the whole world. In two years: 98 German priests, 64 Polish, 127 Italians, 177 Americans, 12 Argentinians, 20 Australians, 9 Beninese, 12 Brazilians, 1 Burkinabe, 2 Burundians, 2 Chileans, 17 Canadians, 3 Colombians, 2 Haitians, 3 Indians…: 65 nationalities.