West end entrance to St.Denis. The Gothic west end was begun under the direction of Abbot Suger about 1135. The next phase of Gothic rebuilding was the choir from about 1140-1144. Originally the church had two towers. The northern tower and spire were disassembled after lightening struck the tower in 1837, and then a storm the same year further damaged the tower.
The ambulatory was built around the choir for the use of pilgrims. It made use of most of the design elements that are considered Gothic such as the pointed arch, ribbed vaulting, clustered columns from which the ribbed vaulting spring, radiating chapels and large windows. The ambulatory has external buttresses supporting the walls but these are not flying buttresses.
The Cathedral of Our Lady at Chartres was begun about 1194 and mostly finished in 1250, a very short time span for building a cathedral. It has remained over the years a model for Gothic architecture.
Drawing of the west front of the Cathedral of Our Lady in Chartres.
Another view of the west front of Chartres Cathedral with its three portals
North side of nave looking toward the west. The dominant color of the stained glass windows is blue.