It has been almost three years since the crypt of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres was closed for various reasons, including covid 19 and its sanitary prescriptions.
It is therefore a pleasure for us to have to report the imminent opening of this place so important for history!
Let us recall the salient elements.
This crypt corresponds in fact to the previous cathedral, erected by our illustrious bishop Fulbert from 1020. It contains some of the oldest elements of this place, some of which are very old.
This crypt is composed of a semicircular ambulatory, extended by two aisles of 11 bays: one to the north dedicated to the Virgin Mary; the other to the south, dedicated to St. John the Baptist – the two patron saints of our cathedral who are like its pillars.
It is the largest crypt in France with a length of more than 200 meters.
From this ambulatory emanate three radiating chapels of Romanesque type with their respective altars, to which were added four Gothic chapels during the construction of the new cathedral in 1194.
Since the 12th century, in the gallery of St. John the Baptist, there has been a baptistery of great quality, originally used for the baptism of the children of the staff of this immense vessel – staff who worked in the service of its priests and canons.
In the opposite gallery, dedicated to the Virgin, is Our Lady of the Underworld, a statue that is the object of a cult dating back to the early Middle Ages. This cult is directly linked to numerous legendary traditions, which show the importance of this place. Thus the theme of the Virgin who is to give birth, and who since before the manifestation of Christianity, was venerated by the druids themselves.
Notre-Dame de Sous-Terre is located next to a well called Puits des Saints-Forts, recently found in 1902, plunged into the bowels of the earth, more than thirty meters deep, and in direct contact with the water table.
Tradition reminds us that the first Christians were immersed in this cave: hence an important and regular cult attested throughout the Middle Ages where people came to pray every year for these martyred Christians.
It is also worth visiting another crypt or “grotto” as the ancients called it, called the caveau or martyrium of Saint Lubin, which gives a glimpse of the Carolingian period and is supported by a huge wall of a thickness unknown to this day, of Gallo-Roman construction.
We will take the opportunity to glimpse the mysterious hiding place where the cathedral’s riches, the gold and silver of the chalices and ciboria, were kept in times of war, and especially the major relic of the Virgin’s Veil, a relic given to the people of Chartres by Charles the Bald in 876. This mysterious place is protected by iron doors that can still be seen and to which access was gained after lifting a trap door located in the south choir of the cathedral, and then descending a stone staircase.
In these places, one will like to stroll while remembering the great medieval processions entering in the north, to join the light of the cathedral in the south.
One will appreciate these places full of silence which invite to the listening and the meditation.
We will also remember this unique symbol, specific to these places which wants that these lands never knew burials.
A virgin land since ancient times, where throughout Christian history, death and its symbols have been kept at bay. Here, in this place, even the powerful have never been able to rest.
Welcome to this place that is two thousand years old.
Access to the crypt will be possible from Monday, July 11, 2022 every day at 2:00 pm.
For our foreign visitors, please ask for a visit sheet of the crypt, at the store located in the cathedral (where you can buy your tickets) : available in English, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Japanese.