|The town of Chartres had been a center for the cult of the Virgin throughout the middle ages since it possessed a statue of Mary, reportedly carved by St. Luke, as well as the "sacred Tunic," supposedly worn by the Virgin at the time of the birth of Christ. The people of Chartres believed that this sacred relic acted as their protector. When the first "early Gothic" cathedral (as well as much of the town) burned in 1194, the rebuilding was considered futile, since the townspeople believed they had been deserted by their protector. However, a representative of the Pope persuaded the citizens to rebuild the cathedral. Now it is one of most famous cathedrals in France, defined as an exemplar of the "High Gothic" style. The facade, executed earlier (before the fire), is early Gothic.|
|The central tympanum illustrates the Apocalypse with a central Christ surrounded by four beasts (Revelations 4-5); the twenty-four Elders and angels are in the voussoirs. The tympanum to the left depicts Christ's Incarnation, the one to the right, his Ascension; thus the three tympana read together present a unified theme: Christ's entry into human history, his departure, and the end of time. This kind of unity, much more complex than suggested here, is typical of Gothic sculptural programs.|
The central portal and tympanum with Christ in Majesty in a mandorla surrounded by the four apocalyptic beasts
The beasts of the Apocalypse--lion and oxThe four Evangelists are represented as four winged creatures: Mark, a lion, Luke, an ox, John, an eagle, and Matthew, a man.
The lintel of the central tympanumFourteen figures occupy the lintel, identified as the twelve apostles, to whom Christ said at the Last Supper, "You shall sit on thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:30) and Enoch and Elijah at either end.
Voussoirs with the twenty-four Elders and AngelsThe voussoirs are part of the main scene illustrating the Vision of St. John (Revelations 4:2-8); the Elders wear crowns and carry harps.
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