medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
From: Paul Chandler <[log in to unmask]>
> The cathedral at Chartres, so I heard on a tour, has side aisles
slightly sloped for easy cleaning after groups of pilgrims had been
accomodated there for great feasts. Is that true
i don't recall any sloping in the side aisles, but there definitely is a
pronounced slope in the nave, between the two towers and, perhaps, a bay
the idea that this was for ease of cleaning is definitely an Old Guide's
which is not to say that it isn't true.
however, to my knowledge, no other church has such a pronounced slope to its
pavement, so one might well ask the question of why sanitation was only
important at Chartres...
there may be an archeological reason for the phenomenon, but i can't think of
what it would be --the "footprint" of body of the present cathedral was
determined entirely by the previous building, the work of Bishop (St.) Fulbert
(+1028), whose *huge* crypt extends under most of the present building.
it is unclear (to me) whether there was a Western entrance to Fulbert's crypt
in his own time, but both of the western towers --which one steps down into,
note-- have doorways on their eastern sides going down into it.
the North tower seems to have been begun in the 1120s or so (i'm judging by
the style of the capitals of the lowest level)
and the southern tower was under construction by the 1140s at the latest.
there has been much speculation about whether the western portal(s) was/were
originally intended to be placed between the towers' *eastern* piers rather
than the western ones, as we see them now. there have been several
reconstruction of what such a placement might have looked like.
to my knowledge, these speculations have not been resolved, definitively, and
the question remains an open, running sore.
it is important to the issue at hand because most (all?? i can't recall) of
the "slope" occurs between the towers.
>and was this purely pragmatic overflow accomodation when the Holiday Inn was
it *may* be that there was some sort of "hostel" for pilgrims set up in the
western bay(s) of the nave --but the sloping pavement is about the only
"proof" of that "fact" which i am aware of.
we have mention of a _xenodochium_ in at least one 12th c. source, so, it
could be argued that housing ordinary pilgrims inside the *upper* church (as
opposed to the sick, whom Jim Bugslag places in the crypt) was unnecessary.
though it is not clear (to me) that this particular _xenodochium_ --which is
mentioned in a context (an obituary entry in the cathedral necrology, i
believe) which does not make clear exactly what it was-- might not refer to
the "hotel-dieu" (hospital) which was just across from (west of) the South
tower, seen in its 13th c. incarnation in this imaginative reconstruction
(that unusual building, btw, survived up until the 1860s when it was torn down
in a reasonably spectacular act of vandalism by the City Fathers --columns
with capitals from it can be seen around town, most notably two in the corner
formed by the meeting of the south transept and the nave.)
but, it is hard (for me) to believe that, even in the 11th c., the Chapter
would put up with masses of ordinary folk crashing on a regular basis in their
church --on *very* special ocassions, perhaps; though i've got problems even
as to the sloping floor, i am fairly well convinced that the pavement which we
have in the present buidling --which is really quite marvelous in its
uneveness and slight irregularities, that limestone being very close to marble
when it is "polished" by a few million feet-- is the pavement of Fulbert's
alas, however, it appears that i am the only person on the planet at the
present time who holds that opinion.
>or was there particular spiritual significance in spending the night inside
others have dealt with this question in some detail, so i'll leave it there.
To join the list, send the message: join medieval-religion YOUR NAME
to: [log in to unmask]
To send a message to the list, address it to:
[log in to unmask]
To leave the list, send the message: leave medieval-religion
to: [log in to unmask]
In order to report problems or to contact the list's owners, write to:
[log in to unmask]
For further information, visit our web site: