Chartres Cathedral, perhaps the supreme testament of High Gothic art and architecture, dominates the town of Chartres, France. In no other Gothic cathedral in the world is the architecture, sculpture, and stained glass so perfectly united and of such excellence. This is due to the comparatively short period of time for construction of the major parts of the edifice. The present church, which is the sixth on built on the location, was begun immediately after the fifth church burned in 1194. The resulting creation stands today as one of the greatest accomplishments of the medieval world.
According to Kenneth Clark, "Chartres cathedral represents one of the finest examples of the High Gothic style."" What grants this cathedral its particular reputation are certain fundamental architectural qualities, which have established the general make-up of High Gothic cathedrals. Chartres has distinguished itself from all other cathedrals of its time because of many unique features displayed in the interior and exterior of its design.
The typical Gothic Latin-cross plan includes a wide nave bordered with single aisles, a high vault, open transepts with side aisles, and an apsidal choir with double aisles and five radial chapels. Although this cathedral was rebuilt in a relatively brief period of time, and with a highly cohesive design, there were many slight modifications and deviations in detail included in its construction. It displays hundreds of sculptured religious figures as well as highly complex stained-glass windows. .
The new cathedral integrated the transitional Gothic fazade as well as the south tower that were both survivors of the fire, thus preserving the sculptures of the Triple Royal Portal and its three stained-glass windows above. Abbé Suger's Abbey of Saint-Denis in Paris was the inspiration for the rest of the cathedral. The walls, piers, and flying buttresses expanded into what became the structure that supports the high-ceilinged vaults and colossal windows.