An extract on #elikit
There have been at least five cathedrals on this site, each replacing an earlier building damaged by war or fire. Nothing survives of the earliest church, which was destroyed during an attack on the city by the Danes in 858. Of the Carolingian church that replaced it, all that remains is a semicircular chamber located directly below the centre of the present apse. This chamber, known as the Lubinus Crypt (named after the mid-6th-century Bishop of Chartres), is lower than the rest of the crypt and may have been the shrine of a local saint, prior to the church's rededication to the Virgin. Another fire in 962 is mentioned in the annals, though nothing is known about the subsequent rebuilding. A more serious conflagration occurred in 1020, after which Bishop Fulbert (bishop from 1006 to 1028) began the construction of an entirely new building. Most of the present crypt, which is the largest in France, dates from that period. The rebuilding proceeded in phases over the next hundred years or so, culminating in 1145 in a display of public enthusiasm dubbed the "Cult of the Carts" one of several such incidents recorded during the period. It was claimed that during this religious outburst, a crowd of more than a thousand penitents dragged carts filled with building supplies and provisions including stones, wood, grain, etc. to the site.
In 1134, another fire damaged the town, and perhaps part of the cathedral. The north tower was started immediately afterwards the south tower some time later. From the beginning, it was intended that these towers flank a central porch of some sort and a narthex. When the north tower rose to the level of the second storey, the south was begun the evidence lies in the profiles and in the masons marks on the two levels of the two towers. Between them on the first level, a chapel was constructed to Saint Michael. Traces of the vaults and the shafts which supported them are still visible in the western two bays. This chapel was probably vaulted, and those vaults saved the western glass. The stained glass in the three lancets over the portals date from some time between 1145 and 1155, while the south spire, some 103 metres high, was also completed by 1155 or later.
Work was begun on the Royal Portal with the south lintel around 1136 and with all its sculpture installed up to 1141. Opinions are uncertain as the sizes and styles of the figures vary and some elements, such as the lintel over the right-hand portal, have clearly been cut down to fit the available spaces. The sculpture was originally designed for these portals, but the layouts were changed by successive masters, see careful lithic analysis by John James. Either way, most of the carving follows the exceptionally high standard typical of this period and exercised a strong influence on the subsequent development of gothic portal design.
Some of the masters have been identified by John James, and drafts of these studies have been published on the web site of the International Centre of Medieval Art, New York.