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Malcolm Miller: "Reading" Chartres Cathedral

by Kathleen Lang

Chartres Cathedral, France, 1194 - 1226
Photo: Dr. Kathleen Cohen
Copyright CADRE Institute, 1997


Ask anyone who has visited Chartres Cathedral and they will tell you that no tour is complete without a lecture by Malcolm Miller.

Malcolm Miller was born in England and educated at King Edward VI School, Birmingham, and Durham University. He has lectured at Chartres Cathedral since 1958, speaking twice daily from Easter until November. Each winter he tours outside France to lecture at art galleries and museums.

During a recent visit to San Jose State University, those of us who haven't been to Chartres would get the opportunity to experience Mr. Miller's wealth of knowledge.

Most people wouldn't know the difference between one gothic cathedral and another-they're all large, have stained glass windows, and of course many include flying buttresses. But Chartres Cathedral, located near Paris, is different. It is the best preserved of all the medieval cathedrals. No small feat considering the many wars and religious upheavals that have taken place in that vicinity during the last millennium.


Chartres Cathedral, France - West Facade, Central Portal, 1145
Photo: Dr. Kathleen Cohen
Copyright CADRE Institute, 1997


According to Mr. Miller, the 13th century Chartres Cathedral can be compared to a library. And like a library, we may visit and read many books, maybe even re-read some books, but we will never read all the books. Chartres is much the same. Its contents: architectural design, statues, and stained glass are each like books and their respective images their text. What is remarkable in this new millennium, said Miller, is that much of Chartres can still be "read."


Chartres Cathedral, France - North Facade, Rose Window with five lancets, 1230
Photo: Dr. Kathleen Cohen
Copyright CADRE Institute, 1997


The majority of his lecture was spent describing the iconographic programs of just a few stained glass windows (there are 176 in all). Perhaps the most amazing aspect of these windows is the fact that they are still intact. They were all removed and stored for safekeeping during both world wars and are currently undergoing extensive restoration. In fact, the comparison seen between the restored and the existing panels was truly extraordinary in its detail and color.

It was immediately apparent at this particular lecture, that Mr. Miller has quite a legion of fans. The audience consisted not only of the usual scholarly types, but also former tourists, who reminisced with each other about their earlier encounters with Mr. Miller.

Overall, his lecture was informative and engaging, but it left me wanting to see Chartres for myself. Now all I've got to do is to get to France and visit Malcolm Miller in his own "library."

For a brief description on Chartres Cathedral (and flying buttresses), please visit the Encyclopedia Britannica web site.

For more information and further bibliographic resources, you can link to the Wikipedia link for Chartres Cathedral.


Chartres Cathedral
by Malcolm Miller, Sonia Halliday (Photographer), Laura Lushington (Photographer)

Our Price: $19.99
Paperback - 96 pages


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