CATHEDRAL OF THE BLACK MADONNA: The Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres

Jean Markale, Author , trans. from the French by Jon Graham. Inner Traditions $16.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-59477-020-3

Markale, now in his 70s and retired from teaching Celtic studies at the Sorbonne, has lost none of his boyhood exuberance for the remarkable history and architecture of the great cathedral at Chartres. In this ambitious study, Markale investigates the symbolism of the cathedral, which sits on an ancient druidic sacred site and incorporates both Christian and pagan images, particularly its dedication to the black madonna. However, this book, translated from the French, is not for the neophyte. Readers need more than a cursory understanding of architectural and reliquary terms, not to mention a working knowledge of world religious history and French geography, to fully appreciate it. Despite an eight-page b&w insertion (not seen by PW ), this book begs for more graphics—line drawings of architectural elements, historic time lines and photographs of the innumerable madonnas referred to. While fascinating, its academic density may frustrate some readers—there's simply an enormous amount of information to digest. Descriptions of virtually every inch of the cathedral, every moment in its history and every statue found in its vicinity combine with an exhaustive comparison between Celtic and Catholic traditions to make for a comprehensive discussion of not just the Black Madonna, but of one of the most amazing cathedrals ever built. For the prepared reader, this will be a treasure trove. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 11/29/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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