The north portal

The sculpture on the north portal is given over to the Church, people of God, to whom the glory of divinisation is promised. On the trumeau of the central bay, a wonderful statue of St Anne, mother of the Virgin, is surrounded by the precursors of Christ on the door splays, thus showing the mother of Christ at the heart of the story, herself borne by humanity. In the right bay, the Judgment of Solomon and the Trial of Job illustrate the divisions and sufferings that human history has seen, as told in the Old Testament. The scenes of the Incarnation on the left-hand tympanum show the birth of the Church through the birth of God as man. In the centre is the promise that this story leads to glory: the Church is crowned. The porch arches complement this imposing depiction of the story of Salvation by showing the main stages in the Creation of the world, the signs of the zodiac and the labours of the months, active life and contemplative life, the Beatitudes, the Vices and Virtues and more. Here, the whole world swarms with humanity striving towards the ultimate happiness as celebrated by the crowning of the people of God, symbolised on the central tympanum by the participation of the Virgin Mary in the glory of Christ risen. The scope of what the sculpture represents is therefore extremely wide, telling the story of all human history from the biblical suffering to the hope of the Evangelists. This is complemented by the stories of the saints and unnamed men praying or working in a very positive narrative whose overall theological coherence has often been neglected.

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Several sculpture workshops of different sensibilities worked on these sculptures, the quantity and quality of which remain astounding today. Some of them are evocative of Antiquity, featuring forms of an almost rigid nobility, or at least of admirable sobriety. Others make more of an attempt to portray movement, daring to show contrapposto poses, animated gestures and a new expressiveness in the faces. Created by the chisels of so many different sculptors, the sculpture on the portals of Chartres Cathedral achieves a humanism full of nobility, gentleness and maturity in the reflection of a society looking to a future full of hope.

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