Chartres Cathedral: a jubilee for the 1000 years of the crypt

Chartres Cathedral: a jubilee for the 1000 years of the crypt
Chartres Cathedral: a jubilee for the 1000 years of the crypt
The crypt of Chartres Cathedral is dated 1024. The cathedral is therefore organizing a jubilee from September 8, 2024 to August 15, 2025, for which the Vatican has authorized the opening of a jubilee door as well as the granting of a plenary indulgence. Interview with the project coordinator.
| In September you will celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the crypt of Chartres Cathedral. The history of this crypt is unique, in what honor did it was built ?

Chartres is a mecca of Marian devotion for a long time. In 876, Charles Le Chauve, grandson of Charlemagne, offered the insignia of the relic of “Veil of Mary” at Chartres Cathedral. It has been kept and venerated in Chartres ever since. Which makes this place a leading sanctuary. In 1020, the Carolingian cathedral burned, along with half the city.

Monsignor Fulbertbishop at the time, undertook the construction of a new cathedral, on top of the old one, which would be built with a lower church and an upper church. The lower church is semi-buried ; it is this part that we today call the crypt. In 1024, Fulbert wrote to William V, Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitiers, that, thanks to his help, he was able to advance the work and that he still had to cover the underground parts to protect them from winter. This document attests to the speed of the work and the completion of the crypt in 1024. Imagine a place where for 1000 years pilgrims have come to give glory to God and honor the Virgin Mary.

The entrance to the crypt of Chartres. © Patrick, CC BY-SA 2.0

How are you going to celebrate these 1000 years of history and Marian devotion?

It’s not just a birthday. We must remember why we are celebrating this jubilee. The anniversary of the 1000 years of the crypt is above all a time of thanksgiving for all these years, for this millennial heritage that we have received. And then we want to induce an extraordinary framework at the liturgical and pastoral level. The Jubilee Year allows for a particular rain of graces, notably through plenary indulgenceoffered to all those who wish it.

A jubilee journey is open to offer everyone the opportunity to experience a pilgrimage in the crypt, following in the footsteps of millions of pilgrims for 1,000 years.

This jubilee year has two objectives: to give thanks and to experience a conversion. Father Blondeau, rector of the cathedral, always says that this crypt is designed as a passage from shadow to light, from bottom to top, symbolizing conversion and the passage from the darkness of death to the joy of Heaven. The crypt is a gateway to the very luminous Chartres Cathedral. You enter from the north, in the dark, and progress towards the south. Step by step, the gallery lights up. Before leaving the crypt, we arrive at the foot of the baptistery. We then have the opportunity to make a strong gesture: renew the promises of our baptism.

The jubilee year takes place from September 8, 2024, feast of the Nativity of the Virgin to August 15, 2025, feast of her Assumption. Thus the Marian feasts which punctuate the liturgical year will be solemnized. A decree of the Apostolic See of Rome authorizes the opening of the jubilee door as well as the granting of plenary indulgence (i.e. the erasure of the penalties linked to confessed sins). To obtain it, those who wish can take a special step: live the Jubilee journey, pass through the Jubilee door, confess, receive the sacrament of the Eucharist and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

Parishes, dioceses, associations, schools…: Come and experience the jubilee in Chartres! Particularly the day with the poor on November 17, with the sick on May 18… During the year, times are planned for everyone.

If the jubilee journey is the central element of the jubilee, there will also be concerts, retreats, pilgrimages, or conferences. Particularly on the labyrinth of the cathedral, the Place de la Virginie in Chartres, the crypt, or the famous people who came on pilgrimage to Chartres. We will also organize times of conviviality which we have called “Aperitif of the square” in order to exchange.

| What is unique about the history of the crypt?

The crypt consists of a semi-circular ambulatory extended by two aisles of eleven bays: one to the north, dedicated to the Virgin Mary; the other to the south, dedicated to baptism. It is the largest crypt in France, more than 250 meters long. From this ambulatory emanate three radiating Romanesque chapels with their respective altar, to which were added four gothic chapels during the construction of the new cathedral in 1194.

The cathedral has also seen many pilgrims who have left their mark on the history of France. Among them Saint Louis, Blanche of Castile, Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany, Henry III, Henry IV, Anne of Austria, Louis XIV, François de Salle, Bernard of Clairvaux, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Carlo Acutis… As it is written on our website:

« In these places, we will enjoy strolling, remembering the great medieval processions entering from the north, to reach the light of the cathedral to the south. We will appreciate these places full of silence which invite listening and meditation. We will also remember this unique symbol, specific to these places which means that these lands have never known burials. Virgin land since ancient times, where throughout Christian history care was taken to repel death and its symbols. Here, in this place, even the mighty have never been able to rest. »

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