23 Oct Famous Windows: The Rose Window of Notre Dame
When it comes to famous windows, few are quite as vivid as the Rose Windows in the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Chartres. The cathedral features three rose windows, so named because of the outward radiating, circular pattern they are built in. These windows were made to tell a story, and we’ll focus on the North Rose Window specifically to explain how this is done.
Every detail of the Rose Windows was carefully planned to give a message to onlookers. The colors chosen hold specific meaning that just about anyone viewing them at the time they were built would understand. The color blue is the color of purity, and of the Virgin Mary, who is the subject of the North Rose Window. The other dominant color, red, symbolizes the blood of Christ. These colors tell us that the North Rose Window is telling the story of Mary and of the birth of Christ.
Just like the colors in the Rose Window tell a story, the characters and shapes pictured there hold symbolism as well. If you pay attention to the numbers, there are 12 of each shape and layer in the North Rose Window. This number commonly symbolizes the relationship between God and man. Besides the obvious characters of Mary and the baby Jesus, there are other symbols to be found in the window.
The doves and angels surrounding mother and child symbolize the heavenly messengers who took part in His coming. These are encircled by the figures of 12 major prophets, who also testified of Him. Next comes 12 flowers, the fleur-de-lis, which is the symbol of France, and also a symbol of Mary. Finally, the outer layer of the rose features 12 more prophets. All of these symbols aid in telling the story.
Made to Tell a Story
While the Rose Windows of Notre Dame are strikingly beautiful, the art form used there was made to inform as much as it was to please the eye. The general population at the time they were built was illiterate, and they relied on pictures and symbols to tell them stories that they were unable to read. Much of the art from this time was used to impart religious lessons and stories to the common people, most of it referring to the bible. This is why some of the most intricate and representative art from this time is found in these beautiful cathedrals.