The Chartres Cathedral in France has long been a crowd favorite, drawing millions of Catholic pilgrims and art lovers every year who come to bask in the famous blue glow of its 13th-century stained glass. But the love may be souring. A new petition against the cathedral’s restoration claims work done over the past six years has irreversibly damaged the 800-year-old building and erased centuries of the history that makes it so special.
According to author Stefan Evans, the restoration has made the cathedral’s interior look like it was built just yesterday. Its walls and vaulted ceilings have been covered with historically inaccurate paint and plaster. And many architectural nuances — for instance, the fact the north tower was constructed in the 16th century in a different style from the rest of the church — have become imperceivable. He writes:
An analogy is a headless statue: a responsible restoration uses filling material and supports when necessary to prevent limbs from breaking. An irresponsible restoration adds a new head and covers the intact limbs with a material that renders the age of the original and newly added parts indiscernible.
Evans and the petition’s co-sponsors — Franco Scardino, Leila Amineddoleh, and Adachiara Zevi — believe the restoration violates the 1964 Venice Charter. Articles 3 and 6 of the charter prohibit conservators from adding new construction, demolishing, or modifying historic buildings in ways that affect their composition and color.