medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

From: John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

> On Wednesday, April 12, 2006, at 12:34 pm, christopher crockett wrote:

>> the building stone for the cathedral of Chartres came from the village of
Bercheres, en plien Beauce, about 10+km from the city.

>> it is not clear to me whether the stone would have been hauled 
overland, over the wretched roads, up the slight incline of the plain; or
carried to the Eure just a few hundred meters away and floated down the river
to the _basse ville_ of the city.

>> the latter would have been easier overall, except for the last bit, when
the stones would have had to have been carried from the valley floor up the
fairly steep hill to the building site.

> Or winched up to a receiving site above?

the least likely possibility, i believe, given the topography of the site.

the only reason why i suggested the possibility of water transport from
Bercheres to the cathedral was that it lies only a km. or so from the Eure, at

can't seem to find a decent map on the web, so this one will have to do
(*ATTENTON*, slow connections, this is a *large file*, 2.2mb) :  --enlarge the image by clicking on the
icon which appears in the lower left when you put the cursor on it anywhere

(Morancez is _Moranceium_, just south of Carnotum, and Bercheres lies just
below the "c" in that word.)

so, given the immensely easier task of water transport vs. land transport,
it's *possible* that the stones were taken from the Bercheres quarry and
hauled by cart to Morancez, loaded on barges and floated down the Eure to the

it is a common misconception, reinforced by views like this

that the cathedral is built "on a hill".

but it --and the "haute ville", the Gallo Roman citadel and its middlevil
descendants-- is actually on a *scarp* overlooking the valley of the Eure.

the famous views of the cathedral across the wheatfields of the Beauce bear
this out

no "hill" there.

the plain of the Beauce slopes gently towards the city on most sides,

but then drops off into the valley, quite precipitously when approaching from
the west, and the cathedral is perched rather near the edge of the scarp so
formed (walk out in the Bishops' garden off the east end of the cathedral and
you can see this quite dramatic view of the valley, Basse Ville and river to
best advantage).

so, the most direct route from the river up to the cathedral would also be the
steepest: several hundred yards up a quite steep hill (*climb it*!), through
narrow, winding middlevil streets

looks good on a map, but a Dog which won't Hunt, in the Reel Whirled.

the other alternative for a riverine route is to off-load somewhere a bit
further away, say down in the _burg_ of St. Peter.

(that's the abbey of St. Peter on the far left, the cathedral peeking out on
the far right and the parish church of St. Aignan in the middle.

down here, the ascent up to the cathedral would have been quite a bit easier,
but also considerably longer --St. Peter's is nearly a km. away and the
landing site would have been a bit further than that (though not quite as far
as the picture in the postcard).

the stones for St. Peter's --which is also Bercheres stone-- *might* well have
come by water, but those of the cathedral probably did not.

the creation of a decent land route for the transport of stone would have been
a quite critical factor in building the cathedral.

though the building essentially went up in a very short time, it was still a
matter of several decades (1190s-1230s) --hardly a fly-by-night operation and
one which required considerable planning and investment in infrastructure.


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