Here we are on the exterior walkway at the level of the upper roof, Chartres Cathedral, August, 2001. This walkway is closed to the public. We get special permission to access these areas.

Left to right: David Tolzmann, Lea Goode-Harris, Judy Hopen, Robert Ferré, John James (front), Ed Mikell (behind James), Linda Mikell (peaking from behind Ed), Ruth Hanna, Diane Terry-Kehner, Jon Casey Fisher, Martha Erickson.

.More than any other group that I have done, the group of August, 2001, bonded into a very close family. Since then, we have stayed in touch by email, held a regional get-together to show photos, and have continued to cherish new and renewed friendships.

Photo of Diane, Judy, and Lea, leaning against a wall in Chartres, France.

Left to right: Diane, Judy, Lea. They were feeling a little fuzzy that morning.

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FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

I'm not much of one for heights. I'll have to say that during our tour in August, 2001, I stayed on the inside of the walkway, next to the roof rather than next to the railing. The group was divided into two, to avoid having too many people at once. So, some of our members were on the ground, looking up, taking photos, and calling to us. (Tourists!)

Photo from theupper walkway of Chartres Cathedral looking down on the flying buttresses.In this photo you can see that we are above the flying butresses, looking down at them. It was quite extraordinary. While other churches had used flying butresses and pointed arches and other Gothic features, it was at Chartres that they were first put together in a complete program. It became the standard for Gothic cathedrals that followed.

I sometimes use the metaphor of a symphony orchestra. Prior to Chartres, the instruments had been invented and a certain amount of skill developed. But at Chartres, for the first time, they played a symphony. Later cathedrals would play far more intricate and evolved symphonies, with a lot more notes and flourishes. But they could do that only because the symphony itself was available to them, thanks to the master(s) of Chartres Cathedral.

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DINNER IN MAISON SAINT YVES

Maison Saint Yves is a 17th-century building that was once a seminary. A few years ago it was totally restored as a pilgrim quarters. I visited when it was gutted, with a big hole for the future elevator, the walls and floors torn up for new plumbing and wiring. Each room has a private bath, which is a modern, plastic, one-piece, modular bathroom. They had to put them in place before closing the walls back up.

While groups tend to stay at Maison Saint Yves, individuals are also welcome. It is literally a stone's throw from the cathedral, far closer than any of the hotels. It doesn't have hotel features, of course, having no lobby, no bar, no room service, no televisions. There is an Internet hook-up in the office, however. For more information, see the Chartres Cathedral website at www.diocesechartres.com. Click on the link that says "Maison d'accueil St Yves." Once there, you have a link for text in English. There are photos and descriptions of the place.

For groups, it is possible to arrange for meals to be catered. That's what we did. It was like French home cooking, served family style. Chartres also has a decent selection of restaurants which cosGroup photo in the dinning room of Maison St. Yves.t a fraction of the prices in Paris. The same for the hotels. Chartres has a pedestrian shopping area, plenty of cafes — it may be more like the romantic vision of France that people hold in their minds than is Paris, with its busy traffic and crowds of people.

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CHARTRES PHOTOS

.Group photo on the mid-level walkway on the exterior of Chartres Cathedral.

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ABOVE THE VAULTS

From afar, it is apparent that the roof of Chartres Cathedral is very tall. When inside the cathedral, looking up at the vaulted ceiling, I don't think many people have the slightest idea of what is above the vaults, sometimes called the overcroft.

In 1836 the roof of Chartres Cathedral burned down. It was a forest of wooden timbers and probably a slate or stone roof. Fortunately, the rest of the cathedral suffered only minor damage. I have seen an old drawing of the cathedral without a roof, flat at the top of the walls, with the top of the vaults showing. Quite amazing.

The new roof was considered a great feat, being made of cast iron. It was the largest cast iron structure until the building of the Eiffel Tower at the end of that century, more than 50 years later. What I find so interesting is that there are no cross beams for support, so the space is completely open, the entire length of the cathedral. Some day they hope to make the overcroft open to the public, but I suspect that won't come for years.

Photo of the overcroft, the "attic" of Chartres Cathedral.There is a catwalk built above the vaults. In the photo, the crossing of paths is indeed at the crossing, where the transepts meet the main body of the cathedral. We climbed down a ladder, scrambled across the very slippery vault and removed the lid to the keystone in the ribs above the labyrinth. The vault may seem high looking up, but it is even more impressive looking down.

I was fortunate to gain access to these areas in August, 2001, and I hope that cathedral authorities have enough confidence in us to allow future groups to do the same.

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WALKABOUT.

There is a mid-level walkway round the perimeter of the cathedral, a mid-level walkway around the building itself, through passages opened into the bases of the flying butresses, and an upper walkway along the roof.

Here we are (August, 2001) on the mid-level walkway, with views to see both up and down. All of these photos were taken on the south side of the cathedral. We started on the north side and went around to the south side, where we then dawdled, not wanting to go back inside.

Photo of tour group on the outside of Chartres Cathedral, looking both up and down.

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