Votives inside of the cathedral...
Continued from page 2....
After leaving the area around the labyrinth, I make my way to the votives lighted and shimmering in the darkness of the cathedral. For 2Euros you can take a votive and light it for someone, placing it in the stand with all of the other brilliantly-lit candles. I light a candle for Lloyd and place it at the very top of the stand, so it shines brightly over every other candle there. I leave my 2 Euros in the little glass dish.
Walking towards the exit, I am thinking ahead about the tour of the crypt, because I want to use that time for a major photo-op. There are some amazing things to see in the crypt underneath the cathedral.
The ticket office is a few minutes' walk from the exit of the cathedral, and as I'm going that way, I am window-shopping, of course! The gift shops along the street towards the ticket office have changed so much since I was here last...and changed for the better. There is one shop in particular that interests me.
The window display is extraordinary. Excellent replicas of the various statues that cover the exterior of the cathedral, of the gargoyles that haunt and horrify the upper edges of the various roofs of the spires...not a junky touristy kind of memento, but a very good quality replica. I'll not buy any for taking home, because of the weight, but I do love looking at them!
Icon on the front of the gift shop at Chartres...
Arriving at the ticket office, buying my ticket and standing in line for the next tour, I remember my first trip underground to see the original portions of this cathedral that have survived for centuries. My son and I went on this tour a few years ago, and it was an amazing experience for us.
The guide was very kind in allowing us to spend 45 minutes in the crypt unsupervised, while we took a load of photos, and I wonder if we'll have the same guide this time. He was so good, he knew his stuff and made that tour extremely interesting.
As more people line up, the guide arrives and it is the same guy! How cool is that? I'm looking forward to this so I can take more photos of the crypt and the ancient artifacts stored there. The guide opens the massive hinged wood door, steps aside and invites all of us to enter.
As our group slowly make their way down the stone steps into the walkway below, I intentionally drift towards the end of the line because I want to lag a little behind, to take some photos of areas of the crypt that I missed photographing last time I was here. I have company...a man and a woman from Holland are walking with me, taking photos as we trail the tour group.
I have the chance to walk right up to the frescoes, the Black Madonna, the baptismal font. This is an awesome opportunity for me, and I am rapidly filling my memory card with what I hope will be glorious photos.
Passing the models of the 4 original versions of the present cathedral, walking through the ages-old underground chapel and trailing my fingers carefully along the edge of the 10th century well, I feel an overwhelming gratitude for this miraculous thing that I'm blessed to be doing.
At one spot, we learn that the Gothic pillars of the main building above are built on original pillars that form part of the crypt below, pillars like this one, constructed ages ago...
It amazes me that something that was constructed over a thousand years ago, without the help of cranes, bulldozers, winches or computer-generated blueprints, still stands as straight and true as when it was first erected. Today, we don't care enough to build something that will last more than a hundred years, never mind a thousand.
I'm always intrigued by the chapel in the crypt...full of frescoes that are stunning, even in their decay. The alter at the front of the chapel, the Well of the Saints-Forts...all once used by the villagers of Chartres to worship their God.
As we turn the last corner coming out of the chapel and into the long walkway to the stairs to the exit, I realize that there are only three of us in the walkway, now.
The rest of the group and the guide are nowhere in sight.
At that very moment, I hear the outer door slam shut!
Without a word of a lie, that's what I hear.
I cannot believe my ears.
I exchange startled glances with the couple from Holland, and ask them, "Holy Mother of God! Do you think they've left us behind?"
The woman smiles nervously, looks at her husband and then back at me, and says in a shaky voice, "That can't be! Let's get out of here!"
We rush towards the stairway to the exit, run quickly up those ancient stone stairs and wrestle without success to open the huge solid wooden door that is barring our way out of the crypt.
We are locked in.
This is like a Stephen King horror movie.
Locked In The Crypt.
It's not funny, though.
I know that there is no tour until 5:30 P.M., a few hours from now.
The last tour of the day.
What if no one is booked for that tour?
I share this little tidbit with the couple from Holland.
They are not amused.
They don't seem to see the black humour in our present situation.
I don't either, but I'm doing whatever I can to keep from freaking out completely.
The doorway blocking our exit...
We decide to try calling the cathedral's tourism office on a cell phone. We also realize that there will be no cell service in this underground. Waving that aside, we race to the top of the stairs, press the antenna of the cell phone against the narrow strip of light showing between the door and the floor, hoping for some radio wave to find it. The woman dials the office number that we find on our ticket stubs.
"'Allo?" says the woman at the ticket office.
"'Allo, 'allo, Madame? Nous sommes enfermés dans la crypte, Madame! S’il vous plaît, envoyer de l'aide!" the woman yells into the phone. She tells the clerk that we are locked in the crypt and we need her to please send help to us.
"Non, Madame, je ne peux pas quitter le bureau sans surveillance," the office clerk replies quickly and curtly. She cannot leave the office unattended.
"Mais, Madame, que faire? S’il vous plaît, aidez-nous!" says the woman from Holland. What are we to do? Please help us, she begs.
The office clerk replies, "Vous devrez attendre la prochaine tournée, et le guide vous rendra libre." She wants us to wait for the next tour and the guide will set us free. She is not budging from her comfy chair in the ticket office.
Now, if this were a Stephen King horror movie, there would be no next tour. The crypt and cathedral would be closing for the season, with us locked inside, and no one to find us until the cathedral opens again in the spring...which, by that time we'll be nothing but a heap of bones at the foot of the stairs that leads from the crypt.
I AM SO SCARED!!!
I want my mommy...or at the very least, I want my Cabbage Patch doll that sits on the foot of my bed...I'm getting more uneasy by the minute.
"Breathe, Brenda, breathe!" I tell myself, over and over again.
This is not the time for my claustrophobia to kick into high gear.
It really isn't.
OK, so we are locked in.
Until the next tour in a couple of hours from now.
That's not so bad, is it?
We talk, the couple from Holland and I.
I suggest walking to the entrance door to see if that door is open and the man from Holland assures me that the guide locked it behind him, once we were all inside of the entryway, at the beginning of this nightmare.
We encourage each other and we even manage a small, nervous chuckle about our situation. We talk about our vacations and how this will make a great holiday story to tell our friends and how we'll laugh about this in the morning....if there is a morning for us...
I hear the guide's voice, coming from miles down the corridors of the crypt!
I am in love with that guide, completely and totally!
I make a small joke that we should hide in the crevasses of the crypt's walls and then, as the tour passes, jump out and scare the crap out of them.
I am the only one that laughs.
It's not such a great idea, then.
Finally, the guide and his fresh victims...er, tour members...round the corner and walk towards us, as we are seated on the cold, clammy stone steps by the exit.
The guide is taking rapidly in French to his tour, and then he sees us, sitting, waiting...
"Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Did I leave you in here? Did I forget you, did I?" he cries.
We assure him that, alas! It is true.
He did leave us in here.
He apologizes profusely, rushing over to us and wrapping his arms around each of us in turn.
"Je m'excuse! Je m'excuse!" he says, over and over again.
I think, "Just let us the hell out of here!"
As we walk into the fresh air, I hear the guide tell us that the door at the entrance was open, unlocked. All we had to do was walk back to that door and we could have got out right away, didn't we know that?
I look at the man from Holland.
With daggers and sharp knives shooting from my eyes.
His wife looks at the man from Holland.
Her daggers and sharp knives shooting from her eyes are much more lethal than mine, I think.
Walking hurriedly to the train station to catch the last train back to Paris, I whistle as I walk.
I never knew how to whistle before!
Is this a Chartres miracle?
Perhaps it is!
“When his life was ruined, his family killed, his farm destroyed, Job knelt down on the ground and yelled up to the heavens, 'Why, God? Why me?' and the thundering voice of God answered, 'There's just something about you that pisses me off.” ~ Stephen King
The stone steps that cosseted our butts for so long...