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The cathedral of Notre-Dame at Chartres must be one of the most beautiful and famous architectural specimens in the world today. The cathedral owns an exquisite silhouette against the sky of La Beauce. Two towers rise uncontested, to take watch over miles and miles of French countryside. Up close, the two towers, along with their spires, seem mismatched or unrelated. Yet, the two together provide for one of the most interesting juxtapositions in architecture. €Chartres cathedral has had a tumultuous history with both tragedies and triumphs. Charpentier notes that the site of the cathedral has also served various other purposes. The Romans had used the higher ground for a military camp, part of which still exists on the eastern side of the cathedral by the transition of apse to choir. In addition to the camp site, there was also the existance of a Gallo-Roman temple on the same site as Chartres cathedral. This temple is believed to have the same orientation as the cathedral and the cathedral's round apse uses the foundation of a Gallo-Roman defensive tower. This use of the Gallo-Roman defensive tower is also present at Bourges cathedral. The lower parts of the defensive tower formed a crypt which was incorporated into the ninth century Church of Gislebert, also known as Saint Lubin's chapel. On the night of September seventh 1020, the Church was completely razed by fire. €After the destruction of the church in Chartres, the bishop of Chartres, Saint Fulbert, spearheaded the campaign to build a church in Chartres. Only the crypt remained from the earlier Caroligian church and Fulbert built his Romanesque church around the enduring crypt. Fulbert's church lasted 200 years, but in 1134 the front faœade was damaged by another fire. It was at this time that a effort to update and restore the church was put into motion. The religious powers, along with the Crusaders longed for a greater monument. Thus, Chartres decided to begin a separate tower.€This adding on to Romanesque churches was not unusual for the day. The abbey-church at Cluny, outside Italy, was given a new magnificent five-bay narthex and two bell-towers. A similar renovation was attempted at La CharitŒ, but funds ran short and the upgrades could not be completed. €Hence, in 1134 the tower forming the north-west corner of the present-day cathedral, (the left tower of the west faœade elevation), underwent construction.
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Above this square storey are two octagonal plinths that serve as the base of the spire.
The octagons are covered with statues of the Apostles, then supported with miniature flying buttresses. The steeple is covered with pinnacles, mullions and trefoils. The steeple seems to be made of stone lace. €When one takes the steeples and their respective spires separately, the towers are certainly different. I find the simplicity of the southern steeple and spire much more appealing than that of the over-adorned lacey stone work of the northern. Complete appreciation of the towers only comes from the consideration of the steeples and spires as one element, not two. One represents the beginings of the Gothic style, while the other represents the end. The two unequal towers seem to frame the faœade of Chartres cathedral. "Gothic art, whose death was imminent, culminated triumphantly at Chartres," (Mƒle 180).