Why visit the crypt?
To have the experience of going back in time
It is in the Cathedral crypt that you will find:
An ancient well dating back to the Galois or Gallo-roman period which was there even before the very first cathedrals.
Walls constructed with Roman techniques, alternating bricks and stone, which date back to the first edifices of which almost nothing remains today.
A glimpse of archeological digs revealing several steps of a cathedral dating before the year 1,000.
To participate in devout prayer
The statue of Mary which can be found in the crypt, “Our Lady of the Crypt”, the same name it has been called for centuries, is an important place to encounter Mary. This chapel, with its blackened walls, creates an intimate “heart to heart” atmosphere, which is different to that of the upper cathedral.
Today the crypt celebrates numerous masses celebrated by priests from across the globe (more than 70 countries over the past few years). Your guided tour may be modified because of these celebrations, but you will certainly be moved by witnessing them.
Just as visitors have beautifully said, the walls of the crypt have been “soaked” in prayer for centuries.
To feel the force of masses of stone
The moment one enters into the deepest part of the crypt, many visitors are stunned by the amazing strength of the piers. One can almost feel their colossal pressure.
The sober architecture of Fulbert’s great lower cathedral (which is a long, U-shaped hallway) is very moving and dates back to the renewal of stone architecture – from the beginning of the 11th century. One can then understand the futuristic aspect of the cathedral above, built 170 years later.
Antique paintings are visible on the walls: these massive walls were covered by them in the Middle Ages.
To find traces of Chartres’s legends
Our Lady of the Crypt, was written earlier as ‘Virgo Paritura’, the Virgin who will give birth. According to the legend, the Druids prayed to Mary here before she was even born. This makes Chartres a sanctuary before Christianity…
Some believe that the first evangelists in the region were thrown into the well – including the young woman Modeste. Later, a child who had fallen into the well was saved by angels…
No one knows what is behind the walls of the two long galleries of the crypt (underneath the nave).
To be given the keys to its history by a tour guide
They will describe Bishop Fulbert’s stunning project: an immense U-shaped gallery where pilgrims made processions from North to South, reminding them of their baptism – before ascending to the upper cathedral…
They will show you the foundations of the Gothic Cathedral: the ancient walls (11th century) had been doubly reinforced.
To initiate you in the art of… contemporary stained-glass windows
The great stained-glass window masters of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries are fascinated by Chartres. Only they could not create their art in the upper cathedral, which is undoubtedly why they are presented here in the small windows of the crypt.
You will see artistic experimentations from the last 100 years: dalle de verre, enamel painting, lavis de grisaille, and thermoforming.
From academic style to lyrical abstraction and from Art Deco to Cubism, you will find here the artwork of Lucien-Léopold LOBIN, Gabriel LOIRE, Marie-Alain COUTURIER, Simone FLANDRIN, Udo ZEMBOK, Pierre Le CACHEUX, and Henri GUÉRIN.