Chartres' 'Black Madonna'

December 16 2014

Image of Chartres' 'Black Madonna'

Picture: New York Review of Books

They've been busy 'restoring' the interior of Chartres Cathedral, one of the great architectural wonders of the world. The restoration seems to consist of painting the limestone walls various gaudy colours, with fake marbelling to boot, and many, including Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books, are agog. One casualty of the restoration is the cathedral's well known 'Black Madonna', which is now, er, no longer black. The close up below shows how the Madonna used to look, with its patina caused by centuries of dirt and candle smoke.


More on the restoration here at ArtWatch.

Update - a reader writes:

My wife and I would like to add a very loud ''hear hear'' to Martin Filler's article.  We used go out of our way to stop-over in Chartres whilst driving to and from our house in the south-west in France. Even for a confirmed atheist such as myself, the cathedral interior was the most spiritual and awe-inspiring building that I have ever experienced and it truly became an inspirational place of pilgrimage for us. We were shocked and heart-broken, indeed out-raged, when we visited last year to find that the French had wilfully embarked on this catastrophic campaign of so-called restoration. The result is that now we sadly have no wish to return, as we prefer to retain the memories of this Gothic masterpiece when it still retained the accretions of centuries which were responsible for so much of its mystical character.

Perhaps we can now expect the French state to countenance the cleaning of the Mona Lisa?

Update II - there are some good 'before 'n after' photos here at ArchDaily. The 'restored' bits look like something from the wedding cake shop.

Update III - the 'restoration' at Chartres is the work of the Monuments Historique division at France's Culture Ministry - the same people responsible for this boneheaded scheme to build on top of an ancient Roman site. People of France - what is going on?

Update IV - supporters of the 'Restoration' have responded in the NYRB, but their arguments are pretty ineffective, and miss the point.

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