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The Virgin of Chartres

The Virgin of Chartres: Making History through Liturgy and the Arts

Margot E. Fassler
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 608
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  • Book Info
    The Virgin of Chartres
    Book Description:

    Medieval Christians knew the past primarily through what they saw and heard. History was reenacted every year in ritual observances particular to each place and region and rooted in the legends of local saints.This richly illustrated book explores the layers of history found in the cult of the Virgin of Chartres as it developed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Focusing on the major relic of Chartres Cathedral, the Virgin's gown, and the Feast of Mary's Nativity, Margot Fassler employs a wide range of historical evidence including local histories, letters, obituaries, chants, liturgical sources, and reports of miracles, leading to a detailed reading of the cathedral's west façade. This interdisciplinary volume will prove invaluable to historians who work in religion, politics, music, and art but will also serve as a guidebook for all interested in the history of Chartres Cathedral.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16287-5
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments: À la recherche du temps perdu
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    • 1 Chartres in Early Histories and Legends
      (pp. 3-27)

      Southeast of the site where the medieval Abbey of St. John in the Valley once stood, the land rises steeply past the medieval walls of Chartres and upward to the cathedral; on the other side of the cathedral a high, sharp cliff falls eastward to the river.¹ Were a fortress located here instead of a church, the viewer would naturally contemplate the military advantage accruing to those occupying the summit of such a hill. In modern-day Chartres the cathedral dominates the landscape from its high vantage point, and one can easily forget that when the counts of Chartres/ Blois built...

    • 2 War and Peace in the Mid-Tenth Century
      (pp. 28-52)

      In the tenth century the leading families of Anjou, Normandy, and Chartres/ Blois secured the landholdings that would become their traditional domains. The early histories of the ducal and comital families of northern Europe are sustained by myths of origin filtered through the agendas of their recorders, and both the general and the particulars of the times are required to evaluate familial character.¹ With deceit a commonplace and bloodshed a necessity, the saints worked long and hard to secure blessing, redemption, and divine favor. Their names were invoked before wars and after them, inspiring the dispirited, redeeming reputations, offering reasons...


    • 3 Adventus and Advent: History and Lineage in the Latin Rite
      (pp. 55-78)

      The interdependence of cult and historical understanding referred to in part I unfolded within a shifting liturgical framework of time. The earlier layer of liturgical materials was primary to historical understanding for centuries and consisted of themes, texts, and chants inherited from Carolingian reformers who shaped the Advent season in the central Middle Ages (discussed here as an example of their work). Mariology at Chartres was further refined through a second group of chants, liturgical texts, and exegesis drawn from the feast of her Nativity, an occasion given special emphasis at Chartres during the tenure of Bishop Fulbert.¹ Fulbert understood...

    • 4 Trauma and the Remedies of History
      (pp. 79-106)

      In 1020, on the eve of the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, fire once again engulfed the cathedral town of Chartres; this blaze, like all the others, had a unique character and history-making power. The fiery triduum extended from September 7, the vigil of Mary’s Nativity, through the feast day itself on September 8 and into the next day. The cathedral and much of the town burned to the ground, and people had to reconcile massive loss with the feast of their major saint and its festive display and economic opportunity. The twelfth-century vita of Saint Anianus...

    • 5 The Virgin in the Second Half of the Eleventh Century: Fulbert Becomes a Liturgist
      (pp. 107-130)

      In recent decades students of the Middle Ages have turned increasingly to hagiography, finding in the lives of the saints a vast body of evidence that has long lain fallow, evidence concerning all aspects of medieval culture.¹ This shift has taken place throughout the disciplines and across a chronological range: from the early Christian period, where Peter Brown’s work on late antique cults has been seminal, to the later Middle Ages and the work of André Vauchez, who wrote about changes in the process of canonization in the later Middle Ages and the new breed of saints begotten as a...


    • 6 New Modes of Seeing: Ideals of Reform in the Early Twelfth Century
      (pp. 133-155)

      The sequence “Interni festi gaudia” for Saint Augustine was likely written in Chartres during the time of Bishop Ivo or in the years just after his death when the canons of St. John in the Valley were compiling Office texts in his honor.¹ The strophe quoted above depicts a heaven whose citizens sing joyously, freed from the torments of sorrow, of enemies, and of mobs. Ivo of Chartres would surely have appreciated the description: while bishop he was exiled and imprisoned and worked among a divided group of polarized canons at the cathedral of Notre Dame. None of his accomplishments...

    • 7 Intrigue, Fervor, and the Building of Churches
      (pp. 156-178)

      “Salve porta perpetue lucis,” a West Frankish sequence from the tenth century also sung in England, was originally a sequence for either Christmas or the Annunciation, and was one of two that might be sung at the Cathedral of Chartres on the Octave of the Assumption.² “Claris vocibus” was a sequence sung for the Purification; “Hac clara die” was sung on the Annunciation. Yet all three of these chants were also sung at Chartres Cathedral during the Dedication feast or within the week following to give the occasion and its octave a distinctly Marian cast. While the Augustinians of St....

    • 8 The Campaign at Midcentury: Bishops, Dignitaries, and Canons
      (pp. 179-202)

      In his autobiography, written around 1115, Guibert of Nogent recounts his pious mother’s vision of the Virgin Mary: “While she was mourning my plight and that of such a church, suddenly a woman of beauty and majesty beyond measure advanced through the midst of the church and right up to the altar, followed by one like a young girl whose appearance was in its deference appropriate to her whom she followed. Being very curious to know who the lady was, my mother was told that she was the Lady of Chartres. At once she interpreted this to mean the blessed...

    • Color plates
      (pp. None)

    • 9 The Virgin and the Tabernacle
      (pp. 205-241)

      The late eleventh-century sequence “Clara chorus,” first sung in Chartres at the Augustinian Abbey of St. John and later adopted in the cathedral liturgy as well, circulated in Chartres during the mid-twelfth century.¹ Through the use of familiar Marian imagery and allusions to the Song of Songs—emphasized in Chartrian liturgical texts for Marian feasts, both in the ordinals and also as expounded in Chartres, BM 162—the Virgin becomes architectural symbol with many attributes. Mary, as type of the church, is a “throne without blemish,” whom Christ calls “my resting place throughout all ages.” The resting place for all...

    • 10 Adventus and Lineage: The Meanings of the Jamb Statues
      (pp. 242-281)

      What would have come into view as a liturgical procession approached the Royal Portal of Chartres Cathedral around 1164?¹ Not what comes into view today. The work the mid-twelfth-century donors supported—which included the twin towers, the triple portal with its sculptural program, the lancet windows, and (the core of) Belle Verrière—was part of a church that no longer exists (except for its crypt), and scholars have been left to wonder how these twelfth-century elements were once part of an eleventh-century building. Theories about the state of affairs around the time Bishop Robert died in 1164 suggest further questions...

    • 11 Reality and Prophecy: Exegetical Narrative in the West Façade
      (pp. 282-322)

      In the introduction to a paper on Romanesque sculpture and the spectator, Walter Cahn addressed reception theory, the study of how the characteristics of artworks are “registered by the audience.” He said that “it is fair to say that the object of art-historical study is still overwhelmingly the work of art itself and its maker, not a hypothetical viewing public, whose identity and concerns are bound to remain, as a practical matter, largely hidden from us” (1992, 45). A statement by Jeffrey Hamburger a decade later reveals how attitudes shifted: “Today, the power of the image is located less exclusively...

    • 12 History Retold: From the West Lancets to the Afterlife of the Cult
      (pp. 323-368)

      It is difficult to believe that the master plans underlying medieval art and architecture, when or if they existed at all, can still be discerned, especially given the fragmentary and chronologically layered nature of most surviving artistic programs.¹ Expectations are low rather than high for artistic integration, but when schematic themes emerge, accepting them is no less problematic than ignoring them. Every church will present a unique situation depending on how much can be known about the liturgy and the persons and politics involved and on how much of the art survives and in what condition. In surviving twelfth-century art...

  9. Appendixes

    • Appendix A: The Liturgical Sources from the Medieval Diocese of Chartres
      (pp. 369-377)
    • Appendix B: Inventory of Chartres Na4; Description and Table of Contents of Vat. lat. 4756
      (pp. 378-381)
    • Appendix C: Readings for the First and Second Translations of Saint Anianus
      (pp. 382-386)
    • Appendix D: Musical Anthology: Sequences Found in Chartres by the End of the Twelfth Century for the Virgin or with Themes Related to “Styrps Jesse” and “Paritura” Motives, following both OV and OC Sequence Texts (orthography as in Chartres BMun 529)
      (pp. 387-419)
    • Appendix E: Inventory of Chartres, BM 162; Approbate consuetudinis and Contra Judaeos
      (pp. 420-437)
    • Appendix F: The Feast of Mary’s Nativity as Found in Chartres, BM 1058 (compiled after 1194)
      (pp. 438-446)
    • Appendix G: Obituaries of Four Bishops of Chartres: Ivo, Geoffrey, Goslen, Robert
      (pp. 447-449)
    • Appendix H: Table of Donors; Genealogy of the Lèves; Genealogy of the Thibaudians
      (pp. 450-458)
  10. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 459-460)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 461-558)
  12. Bibliography

    • Primary Sources, Including Authors from before the Revolution
      (pp. 559-568)
    • Secondary Sources
      (pp. 569-598)
  13. Scriptural Citations
    (pp. 599-599)
  14. Index of Manuscripts
    (pp. 600-600)
  15. General Index
    (pp. 601-605)
  16. Index of Modern Authors
    (pp. 606-612)