As a child, attending Episcopal schools, I spent many hours in chapel and church. Each Friday, I walked across the close of the Washington National Cathedral for a service in one of the most perfect gothic cathedrals in the world. I loved learning about the chapels and the stained glass, the saints and the stories. I've visited many cathedrals and churches since then. But I've always wanted to see Chartres, the church rebuilt in a lifetime to replace the one that burned.
Today, I did. I touched the limestone rubbed smooth by millions of pilgrims over hundreds of years. I walked a section of the Chemin of Saint Jacques.
People have built places of worship on this hillside since before history was recorded. Gauls, Romans, and later Christians built temples there. Several earlier wooden Christian churces were burned by Vikings, warring kingdoms, and accidents. In 1194, all of the cathedral except the crypts, the west front, and the two towers burned. In 1260, a rebuilt Chartres Cathedral was consecrated. I walked through it today.