Throughout its eight-century-long history, Chartres Cathedral has been consistently cited as one of the world's greatest religious spaces, charming countless architects thanks to its dramatic interior combining brooding stone vaults and delicate stained glass windows. But this legacy is severely threatened, argues Martin Filler for the New York Review of Books, by a "foolhardy" restoration in its zeal for recapturing the past "makes authentic artifacts look fake."
Despite minimal evidence of the cathedral's original interior color scheme, and despite the fact that this color scheme has been forgotten for well over five hundred years, the French Ministry of Culture’s Monuments Historiques division is pressing ahead with a scheme to paint the interior white, with trompe l’oeil marbling and gilded detailing, in an effect that Filler compares to "some funeral parlor in Little Italy." He writes:
"Whereas the old, age-darkened masonry heightened the intense colors of the windows, the new paint subverts them. As Adrien Goetz wrote in Le Figaro last month (in one of the very few critical accounts of the overhaul in France), the new effect is like “watching a film in a movie theater where they haven’t turned off the lights.”"
Read more about this "unfolding cultural disaster" at the New York Review of Books.