In Chartres, the Beauty of the Veil of Mary

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On October 7, 2020, a new showcase housing the relic of the veil of the Virgin Mary was inaugurated in Chartres Cathedral. As well as showcasing the ornate reliquary, designer Hubert Le Gall’s clean craftsmanship provides versatile protection for the relic.

“I was inspired by this reliquary covered with jewels, stones and cameos, but I did not want to fight with the reliquary”, explains Hubert Le Gall, pointing with emotion to the golden reliquary which has housed the veil since the 19th century. of the Virgin Mary, venerated since the 9th century in Chartres Cathedral.

It was in 876 that Charles the Bald, on the evening of his reign, offered the cathedral the precious relic he had inherited from his grandfather Charlemagne.

Charlemagne himself had received it from Irene, Empress of the East, who reminded the Frankish monarch that it was the silk veil worn by the Mother of God on the day of the Annunciation.

During the Revolution, the reliquary was gutted and the silk cloth cut into several pieces. One of them was recovered: it is the one that is still today the object of veneration by pilgrims from all over the world.

Over the years, the showcase housing the current reliquary – which dates from 1876 – was less and less watertight, it became necessary to replace it: this is where designer Hubert Le Gall comes in.

The Parisian artist designed a golden window, adorned with stained glass bearing the famous Chartres blue which, in the Middle Ages, had already ensured the fame of Chartres glassmakers.

But don’t think that Hubert Le Gall’s work consists only of an evocation of the past: it contains a technological device, hidden in a drawer under the window.

Because at the heart of Chartres Cathedral hides an enemy more furtive than thieves, more patient than profaners of all times: humidity. In addition, a device equipped with a polymer membrane has been installed inside the showcase, in order to ensure the most perfect climatic regulation.

A technique which has the double advantage of not producing unsightly condensation for the eyes, and of being able to last twenty years, without any particular maintenance being necessary.

In addition, to facilitate the display of the relic during large ceremonies, a sliding tray has been installed, so that the reliquary can be easily removed.

Finally, it was also decided to limit the lighting of the relic so as not to damage the veil of the Virgin: “the lighting is on every day from 12:20 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 7 p.m. say during the period of the daily rosary and during the Angelus,” says Fr. Emmanuel Blondeau, rector of the cathedral.

A way of preserving the mysterious side of the relic that has been its own for 12 centuries.

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