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French architecture

Reliable history of French architecture begins with the Middle Ages, from the XI century, as reliable information about the earlier Celtic and Frankish cultures did not survive. In France, mainly in the south, in Provence and Dauphine, the remains of temples of the Gallo-Roman period are saved. Among numerous places of worship and fantastic beauty are two buildings – Chartres Cathedral and Pantheon. From the point of view of Art History these masterpieces attract universal attention. For this paper just these very buildings were chosen because of great popularity, unique history, out of the ordinary design etc. All these factors make the work given unusual, interesting for readers and informative for those who studies Art History. As France is home to the Gothic style, it is considered that foundation is the church architecture, French Gothic reaches its peak in the era of "rayonnat" style, vivid example of which is the cathedral of Chartres; Pantheon, in turn, is one of the most magnificent buildings in Paris of neoclassical style. This significant difference, which is expressed in design, materials, technology, lay-out, decoration and function was the reason for writing such paper. It also can be considered as a comparative characteristic among the reasons of showing the interest to this topic.

Chartres Cathedral shows the highest achievements of Gothic architecture. The three-building plan is a Latin cross with a short three-nave and transept deambulatory. The eastern part of the temple has several semi-circular radial chapels. Three of them were markedly in favor of the boundary of semicircle deambulatory, the four other are less deep. At the time of construction the vaults of Chartres Cathedral were the highest in France, which was achieved through the use of based on the abutment of flying buttresses. Additional flying buttresses supporting the apse, appeared in the XIV century. Chartres Cathedral was the first in the construction of which was used this architectural element, which gives it a completely unprecedented external shape, increased the size of windows and the height of the nave (36 feet).[1]

Feature of the appearance of the cathedral are its two very different towers. 105-meter spire of the south tower built in 1140 is in the form of unpretentious Romanesque pyramid. North tower of 113 feet has a base, the remainder of the Romanesque cathedral and the spire of the tower appeared at the beginning of the XVI century in the style of Flamboyant Gothic. Chartres Cathedral has nine portals, three of which have survived from the old Romanesque cathedral. Northern portal dates from the year 1230 and contains a sculpture of the Old Testament characters. South Portal, created between 1224 and 1250 years, using stories of the New Testament to the central composition, dedicated to Judgment. Western portal of Christ and the Virgin Mary, popularly known as the Royal, is dated 1150 and is known for depicting Christ in glory, established in the XII century. Entrances to the north and south transepts are decorated with sculptures of the XIII century. Total decorations of the cathedral have about 10,000 sculptures of stone and glass. On the south side of the cathedral are astronomical clock of the XVI century. Before the failure of the mechanism in 1793, they showed not only time but also the day of the week, month, time of sunrise and sunset, moon phases and the current zodiac sign.[2]

The shape of Pantheon is also the cross (pic. 2). It is located on top of the hill of Saint Genevieve. Pantheon is a temple with a large dome, built in honor of the patroness of Paris, St. Genevieve. It was built in 1758-1789 under the project of Soufflet in the heart of the Latin Quarter. During the French Revolution, it was decided to use it as a shrine to the outstanding French. It is a huge structure: its length of 110 meters, width 82 m, height 83 m. crosswise building is topped by a huge dome. Huge powerful facade, on the pediment is the famous inscription “AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE” ("Grateful motherland to great people"). Soufflet decided to recreate the typical Gothic architecture sensations of light, space and proportion in the classic (if not Roman) forms. To this end, he took advantage of the plan in the form of a Greek cross, the nave and chapels which were designed as a system of flat arches and semicircular arches, supported by rows of columns in the interior. Bulk composition of the building develops the idea of central-domical facilities, of having in terms the outlines of a Greek cross. Central dome rises to a height of almost 120 m. Its goal in this project was the combination of strict regularity and monumental Romanesque vaulted ceilings with graceful ease of supporting columns and freestanding Corinthian columns. In its plan the church had the form of a Greek cross, with a facade placed huge temple pediment. Free-standing columns were unable to maintain the dome of the building, and it eventually had been propped up. The outer surfaces of the walls almost without decoration solved using the classical contrast of dismembered and undifferentiated mass.[3]

 As it can be seen, both the Pantheon and Chartres Cathedral have the shape of cross in their planning and Gothic style of building in the base.

No less remarkable is the interior of the Chartres cathedral. The spacious nave, unmatched in all of France, rushes to the magnificent apse in the eastern part of the cathedral. Between the arcades and rows of the upper windows of the nave is trifory, massive columns of the cathedral are surrounded by four powerful pilasters. Arcade of deambulatory surrounds the choir and altar area, which are separated from the rest of the carved wall. The wall appeared at the beginning of the XVI century and during next two centuries was gradually decorated with carved figures depicting scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin. (pic. 3) The central part of the facade has retained a heavy Romanesque wall, which is embedded in the three magnificent portals, belonging to the XII century. In the central portal of the Royal track is "Christ in Glory" - on both sides of the figure of Christ are fantastic winged animals and beneath them is a wide belt with sculpted figures of saints. In the central portal of the south facade you can see the relief of "Judgment Day" (about 1210-20), differing with forms of generosity and deep spirituality of the images. It is considered as one of the best reliefs the heyday of the Gothic (pic. 4).

In the center of the cathedral floor is designed as a circle inscribed in the "labyrinth" - figured laying of multicolored stones, which has been preserved only partially. The circle has a diameter of 12.89 meters and the length of the labyrinth is 261.5 m. The size of the labyrinth is almost identical to the size of the window rose of the western facade, and the distance from the western entrance to the maze is exactly equal to the height of the window. (pic. 5,6) Chartres Cathedral is one of the few Gothic cathedrals of France, who kept almost unchanged its glazing. It is decorated with stained glass of 12-13 centuries, occupying an area of about 2600 sq.m., it is the largest extant ensembles of stained glass of that era. In the cathedral there are 146 stained glass windows, which, except for some figures are shown in 1359 different story. (pic. 7) Stained glass windows decorate with "roses" of the main transept. Stained glass windows of Chartres Cathedral are extremely intensity and purity of color and range of subject images. Along with scenes from the Old and New Testaments, the prophets and saints - they take advantage of the upper band – at the bottom is about a hundred scenes from the life of kings, knights, artisans, who sacrificed stained glass windows in the cathedral, and one of the "roses" is dedicated to the peasants. Particular performance skill, memorable power of the image are windows depicting the Virgin Mary, stained window with scenes from the life of St. Evstafy and a portrait of Charlemagne. The richest external and internal decorations of the cathedral have a total of about 10,000 sculptures. The cathedral has a huge carved wooden altar, which shows forty stories on evangelical issues. A distinctive feature of the stained glass windows of Chartres Cathedral is an extraordinary richness and purity of the colors, the secret receipt of which was lost. For images typical extraordinary breadth of subject matter: scenes from the Old and New Testament stories of prophets, kings, knights, artisans, and even peasants. [4]

Chartres Cathedral is built of very durable sandstone, which is mined in quarries of Bersher, 8 km from Chartres. Some blocks of stone in the cathedral walls are 2-3 feet long and a meter in height.

Columns of the Pantheon create a prospect of a spectacular interior, richly decorated and refined with classical ornamentation and relief. The building is perceived as a monument to enlightenment, a bright mind, citizenship. Soufflet really managed to reach the Gothic lightness in classic guise. Numerous sculptures and murals on the walls are devoted to the history of St. Genevieve - the memory of a time when the building was of her name. To the central dome a huge Foucault pendulum showing the rotation of the Earth is suspended. Staircase at the entrance to the temple leads to the "pronaos" (porch) with 22 columns, which support the pediment. On the pediment is sculpture of the allegorical story of David d'Anzhera 1831, representing France, between Freedom and History. The walls are decorated with frescoes, the most famous of which are scenes from the life of St. Genevieve, executed by Puvis de Chavannes. The crypt, which is located under the church, keeps the ashes of many famous people: here the tomb of Victor Hugo (placed here in 1885), as well as the tombs of Emile Zola, Voltaire, Soufflet, Carnot and Mirabeau. 425 steps lead to the summit of cathedral, where magnificent panorama of the city is opened to the eye.

At the exit from the Parthenon the semi-circular area with two symmetrical buildings on the right and left overlooks, and stretching far out Soufflet street between them with rising above the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Such a triumph of symmetry arose here at the behest of Soufflet, which was concerned not only about building the church, but also the spectacular organization of space around it. [5]

To understand the function and value of construction of these buildings we need to turn to history. At the place of modern Chartres Cathedral were a lot of the churches. From 876 year the Holy Shroud of the Virgin Mary is kept in Chartres. Instead of the first cathedral, burned down in 1020, a Romanesque cathedral with huge crypt was built. He survived a fire in 1134, which destroyed almost the entire city, but was badly damaged in a fire of June 10, 1194. From the fire, made by lightning, survived only towers with the western facade and crypt. Miraculous escape from the fire of the sacred shroud was considered a sign from above, and prompted the construction of a new, more ambitious building. Chartres Cathedral preserved to this day virtually untouched. It escaped the devastation and plunder, was never restored and rebuilt.

As to the Pantheon, it is of no less value. The Pantheon was built in 1758-1789 under the project Soufflet in the heart of the Latin Quarter. The building is conceived as the Church of St. Genevieve, but already in 1791 it was decided to turn the building into the Pantheon, a monument to the great men of France. In two-plus centuries this building became a classic, which was followed and subverted by next generation of architects. For the Baroque, with its pomp, pretentiousness and decorative fancifulness, the return to the strict simplicity of ancient Greece was almost a shock. Therefore, the project angered conservatives and delighted progressives. Soufflet decided to join in its creation the best achievements of world architecture, accumulated by that time. He created a magnificent six-Greek portico, crowned with a dome building, which the ancient Greeks did not know, made the interior a light and bright, as in the Gothic style but used vaulted ceilings of Romanesque. 5


Coming to conclusion we can say that both buildings are of great historical value and have a lot in common: both are cathedrals (in first planning), the lay-out is cross-formed shape with decorations and elements of corresponding era, decorations and frescos depict the scenes from the life. Architectural images are less unique, embody not private, transitory "spirit of the times", but more typically, the leading art sights and tastes of society. These qualities determine the value of outstanding architectural monuments as a historical source: they bring to us in its content not random, but typical, not private, but the main feature views of the era.

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