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The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, located in the medieval town of Chartres, is about 50 miles from Paris. It is almost perfectly preserved in its original design and details, and its stained-glass windows are almost all originals. It is the only cathedral that represents an almost perfect image of how it looked when it was first built.
The cathedral has been a major pilgrimage destination since the early Middle Ages. The present cathedral is a French Gothic masterpiece built because fire had destroyed its predecessors. After the first cathedral of any great substance burnt down in 1020, a new Romanesque basilica was built. It survived a fire in 1134, but on the night of June 10, 1194, lightning ignited a great fire that destroyed all but the west towers, the facade and the crypt.
Rebuilding began almost immediately with the people of Chartres volunteering to haul the necessary stone from quarries 5 miles away. The construction project used the plans laid out by the first architect to preserve the harmonious aspect of the cathedral. By 1220 the main structure was complete, with the old crypt, the west towers and the west facade incorporated into the new building. On October 24, 1260, the cathedral was dedicated in the presence of King Louis IX and his family. The cathedral was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.
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