This article accompanies the fable
The Cult of the Virgin Mary reached its zenith when Chartres was being built. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, for example, praised the Virgin Mary as Intercessor for the salvation of humankind and, as a result, nuns and abbesses were able to command considerable respect - from Hildegard of Bingen and Clare of Assisi to the mystics and scholars that followed.
It seems inescapable that what these religious figures were moved by was some deeply felt feminine principle in their lives. In 1904, American writer Henry Adams in Mont Saint Michel and Chartres saw the Virgin Mary as the driving force of the old world, from medieval times back to Byzantium before it. They were inspired by the Virgin Mary, not Christ. That's a powerful idea.
Can this feminine principle be sustained in the decades ahead, now that sacred places like Chartres are being restored, the grime removed, and where pilgrims compete with hordes of tourists? Restoration of pilgrimage sites like Chartres in a secular age is a paradox: in regaining the old cathedral as a vibrant contemporary place of worship, restoration ensures it loses its tangible connection to the past, to history, to the mysteries of the ages....