Fulbert of Chartres


Fulbert of Chartres : biography

– April 10, 1028

Architectural contributions

After the Cathedral in Chartres burned in 1020, Fulbert devoted his energies to raising funds for its rebuilding, and it was completed in 1037, nine years after his death.Wellman, p. 136-37 In 1194 the Cathedral was again almost completely destroyed by fire, only the crypt, some of the west facade and two towers remained.Frankl, p. 33 The crypt has been incorporated into all subsequent reconstructions.Spitzer, p. 144-45 ) The construction of the Gothic style Cathedral that stands to-day began after this. It is in this Cathedral that we see Fulbert’s influences that resulted from his promotion of the Feast day of Mary’s Nativity and the cult of the Virgin Mary. The sculptures around the three portals depict the life cycle of Mary and he is the central figure in the Royal Portal.Spitzer, p. 132 Inside one of the stained glass windows depicts the Tree of Jesse, which traces Mary’s and Christ’s family, again a reference to Fulbert’s teachings in regards to the Feast of Mary’s Nativity.


Theological Contributions

Like the recent millennium change, the one during Fulbert’s lifetime also created a fear of the end of the world. The adoration of the Virgin Mary was already established in the Church, and Fulbert would use this as teaching on her importance. The results were twofold, it helped to ease the peoples fears and greatly expanded the Marian Cult and Chartres’s position in it. Chartres was already involved due to its being the holder of a sacred relic of Mary’s, the “Sancta Camisia”, (Holy Tunic), which has been variously described as being worn by Mary during the Annunciation or during the birth of Christ.Fassler, p. 404 This tunic was already the subject of a miracle, it was used by an earlier Bishop of Chartres, Gauscelinus, in 911 to ward off the invading Normans.Wellman, p.136 Fulbert expanded on the theme of miracles involving Mary especially ones where she had mediated between sinners and God, in this way the people could pray to Mary to intercede on their behalf, with God, in the perceived coming apocalypse.Wellman, p. 138-40 Fulbert himself was involved in one of these miracles, when he was gravely ill Mary had healed him with a drop of her milk because of his devotion to her. This also served to give Mary the image of not only the mother of Christ, but for all who believed in her, their mother too.Wellman, p. 140 All of these things led to Fulbert’s ultimate goal of promoting a special feast day to celebrate Mary’s Nativity.Fassler, p. 405

To gain popular support for this feast, Fulbert wrote his famous sermon “Approbate Consuetudinis” in which he outlines Mary’s miracles. He also brings in the evidence of Mary’s family linage which can be traced back to King David.Fassler, p. 406 In his sermon Fulbert used the symbolism of the “Stirps Jesse” (Tree of Jesse) to help explain Mary’s familial relationship to the great men of the past and how it was determined, as described in scripture, that she would be the one to whom Christ would be born.Fassler, p. 410 This again served to enhance her importance to the world and convince people of the need to celebrate her birth. This sermon led to a number of liturgical changes throughout the next few centuries in Europe. The sermon itself, or variations of it, and the chants associated to it, were to become part of the service for the feast day of Mary’s Nativity on Sept. 8.Fassler, p. 433 By promoting the Feast day of Mary’s Nativity, Fulbert was able to advance the importance of Mary and therefore the cult of her worship grew. This in turn enhanced the importance of the Cathedral of Chartres as a centre for worship of her, and also gave the people a spiritual symbol for them to turn to in their time of need at the turn of the millennium.Wellman, p. 146