13th-Century Windows From Historic French Landmark Scheduled for U.S. Visit

In two years, the United States will have an opportunity to see something it has never seen before. It’s nothing new, however. In fact, it’s very, very old.

If all goes as planned, a 20-foot-high stained-glass window from the 13th century—the Bakers’ Window in the Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral in France—will make its way to a U.S. museum to be exhibited for a few months.

Exterior of the Bakers' prior to the restoration project. Photo: Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs

Exterior of the Bakers’ Window prior to the restoration project. Photo: Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs

According to Dominique Lallement, president of American Friends of Chartres (AFC), it will be one of the first times 13th-century stained glass will make its way to the U.S. and the first time 13th-century glass from Chartres Cathedral has left France. The Chartres Cathedral, located southwest of Paris, houses the world’s largest collection of 12th- and 13th-century stained glass windows.

“The cathedral is a historic site of unparalleled artistic, intellectual and spiritual influence and is designated as a monument of paramount cultural significance on UNESCO’s World Heritage List,” AFC’s website reads.

AFC, a non-profit organization that assists in the restoration and preservation of the cathedral, works side-by-side with the French organization Chartres Sanctuaire du Monde and also in partnership with the French government, which approves all restoration and preservation projects. AFC is currently raising money for the Bakers’ Window restoration—its steepest challenge to date.

AFC has an agreement with the French government that it will raise the full restoration cost—$250,000—by the end of 2015. Lallement says the organization has already raised more than 20 percent of its goal, thanks in part to some carry-over from last year. She adds that the organization has other commitments for 2015, as well.

“We’re on a very tight schedule, in terms of our organization,” she says. “But we’re tripling the rate at which we are fundraising compared to the first six years of existence of the organization. I’m proud to report that in 2013 and 2014, we have raised about one-third of the total amount raised by the organization since it was established in May 2005. …I’m quite confident that we’re going to achieve this goal.”

Lallement is unauthorized to disclose the museum in which the Bakers’ Window will be exhibited, adding that any hint of location would “be pretty easy to figure out.”

“I can only say it’s a museum that has a very large collection medieval art,” she says. Lallement, however, says that when the organization is able to disclose the museum, she thinks it will give a big boost to the fundraising campaign.

“The museum has already had a number of meetings with the French to start working out the details,” she says. “It’s only until they have the full [blueprint] of the project that they’ll be able to make an official announcement.”

As for the physical project itself, the window is expected to be taken down this fall. Then it will begin the restoration process.

“The windows themselves are held with steel and lead brackets, which are fairly easy to detach so that the glass can be lifted panel by panel,” says Lallement. “Each panel is then analyzed in great, great detail to find out the condition of the glass, whether the glass itself has experienced chemical deterioration or layers of grime, or if paint has worn off from internal and external erosion.”

“… Then they create a restoration plan for each, if there are little pieces of glass missing, some re-painting—until they’re restored to their original condition.”

The restoration process takes about a year, and the current plan has the window being shipped to the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2015. It will be exhibited in the U.S. for approximately three to six months before getting sent back to France for installation.

For more information on American Friends of Chartres, click here. For more information on their fundraising campaign, which is being crowdsourced at Razoo.com, click here.

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