Return to south rose




(c) Copyright Painton Cowen 2008

A. St Luke on Jeremiah

B. St Matthew on Isaiah

C. The Virgin and Child

D. St John on Ezekiel

E. St Mark on Daniel

Donor figures

Chartres Cathedral


w.122 __ Lancets below the south rose window

Below the south rose are the four Evangelists on the shoulders of the four major prophets. This image echos the words of a famous Chancellor of the School of Chartres, Bernard
"We are as dwarfs mounted on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more and further than they; yet not by virtue of the keenness of our eyesight, nor through the tallness of our stature, but because we are raised and borne aloft upon that giant mass." (see below for more on this matter)

These are the words of John of Salisbury quoting Bernard of Chartres, probably the greatest of the chancellors of the School. In the 1220s, a century after Bernard's time, the huge south rose window was installed, above five lancet windows containing the Virgin Mary and the four Evangelists, the latter being portrayed as dwarfs or young men on the shoulders of giants. A coincidence or a wish to acknowledge the influence of Bernard and the School? There is no doubt that its work and insights are crucial factors in understanding Chartres cathedral, and all the churches built when the Gothic spirit was active .... The 'giants' they built on included Plato, Plotinus, Boethius, St Augustine and the Bible. Their free and unprejudiced attitude to the acquisition of knowledge enabled them to develop their Christianity in the light of classical purity, Islamic devotion and Arabian thinking. They followed precisely the advice of the early mystic Hugh of St Victor: to learn all that was possible. From Christian and pagan sources alike they studied the created in order to know the Creator.