Chartres in a New Light

October 11 – 14, 2018

Chartres Cathedral, 16 Cloître Notre Dame, 28000 Chartres, France

A visit and exploration of recently restored Chartres Cathedral.

Event Description

“I still go to Chartres cathedral each year and to the Parthenon every three years. Very good. Keeps your standards high. You can’t go any higher,” said Kenneth Clark, (otherwise known as Lord Clark of Civilization).

The upkeep of standards is a worthy aim for an aesthete but a more humble reason to visit Chartres Cathedral frequently is simply to enter the space and stay in it a while.

Since the time of the broadcast of “Civilization” we have become inundated with images. At the touch of an iPhone we can summon up Chartres Cathedral and see it from every angle and in extraordinary detail, in three dimensions and moving images. But no technology can replicate the effect of being within and around the space created by the Cathedral.

Vijay Iyer, jazz musician and physicist, has written brilliantly on the concept of embodied cognition as it applies to non-western musical forms: the ability of the body to take in its environment, physical and cultural, in support of its mental capacities. Architecture is frozen music as Goethe tells us and to experience the rhythms of both we need to be present.

In recent years the custodians of the cathedral at Chartres embarked on an extremely controversial mission to restore the original plasterwork of the interior. In attempting to clean the stone, accretions of candle wax and smoke were chipped away and the original plaster in its soft gold hue was found, analysed and reproduced. This was done in opposition to modern standards of restoration where “reversability” is key: make no changes which cannot be reversed.

The palpable sense of centuries of worship that the formerly blackened interior evoked, the softened edges of the stone created by the touch of 800 years of pilgrims have been stripped away and for those who know Chartres it is quite shocking. The restoration has angered many lovers of the Cathedral and although it would not have been a choice this lover would have made, nevertheless something new has been revealed. The clean lines of the architecture are now startlingly clear. The light from the magnificent windows falls on the walls and columns as it must have done when it was first built. The romance of the gothic has been lost but the presence of the original form is more easily found.

Come and see Chartres in, literally, a new light. In addition we will discuss a little the philosophical background to the School of Chartres in the 12th century, the contemporary understanding of the Virgin Mary, and the relationship to Nature and to time, and also walk the maze, circumambulate the building and sit in this great space.

Facilitator / Speaker

Jane Carroll studied at the Architectural Association, where she participated in a project at Chartres Cathedral with the architectural historian John James, taking survey measurements of the Cathedral. She and Llewellyn Vaughan Lee measured the labyrinth, which resulted in an article written with Keith Critchlow, The Chartres Maze, a Model of the Universe?  She also wrote her senior thesis on the School at Chartres – exploring the philosophical background of the 12th century scholars at the Cathedral. She has had a lifetime interest in traditional geometry and sacred spaces, and she has lectured widely on the subject, publishing a paper in the Journal of the Ibn ‘Arabi Society on the geometry of the mihrab in the Mosque at Cordoba. She is Secretary of the Ibn ‘Arabi Society in America and lives and practices in Ojai, California.

Booking, Fees & Accommodation

For further details or enquiries please contact Jane Clark:

Costs: £460 – a deposit of £50 to be paid by 1st August

Payments by bank transfer to:
The Beshara Trust Ltd
HSBC, 31 Holborn, Holborn Circus, London, EC1N 2HR
Sort Code: 40-11-58
A/C No: 50135607

*Please state Chartres as your reference.


  • Accommodation (double or twin rooms)
  • Evening meals
  • Introductory lectures by Jane Carroll
  • Two guided visits to the cathedral, including walking the maze on Friday 12th October.

NB. Travel to Chartres is not included.

Places are limited to 16, so booking early is recommended to avoid disappointment.

Course / Event location

Chartres Cathedral, 16 Cloître Notre Dame, 28000 Chartres, France

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