The Good Samaritan Window, Chartres Cathedral

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Title: PARISEUS. Here, Christ answers a pharisee's question "And who is my neighbor" by the Lukan parable of the Good Samaritan.[1][2]

Trade Windows[edit]

The Good Samaritan window is located on the south wall of the nave (Bay 44).

Trade windows first appeared at the cathedrals of Chartres and Bourges between 1205 and 1215. The 176 windows of Chartres present 125 depictions of tradesmen engaged in twenty-five different occupations making, transporting, and selling their products in forty-two windows.[3] Anne Harris suggests that the trade windows at Chartres are an attempt to confront the increasingly pressing challenge which the town’s emerging urban economy presented to the church’s way of life and its understanding of the world.[4]

Good Samaritan Windows[edit]

The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37)[5] complemented by a series of Old and New Testament typologies served as a popular subject for cathedral glazing programs in the thirteenth century.[6] Three French cathedral windows fabricated between 1200 and 1215 function in this way: Sens (c.1200), Chartres (1205/1215),[7] and Bourges (c.1215)[8] . The Good Samaritan-Genesis typology is found as well in a window at Canterbury Cathedral.[9]

Images of the Good Samaritan windows at Bourges, Chartres, and Sens are provided by The Corpus of Medieval Narrative Art, an archive of high-resolution photographs of medieval narrative art, concentrating on French 13th-century stained glass. They are copyrighted by Dr Stuart Whiting and available for legitimate academic purpose.[10]


Panel 12 - At the inn, the Samaritan nurses the injured man back to health[11]

The Good Samaritan window of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Chartres is located in the south aisle of the nave (#44, see floorplan). Designed to be read from bottom to top, it presents twenty-four separate but interconnected panels. The window presents three medallion clusters (quatrefoils) supported by a demi-cluster horizontal base and interspersed with two lateral demi-medallion clusters.

  • Panels 1-3 are "signature panels" featuring shoemakers.
  • Panels 4-12 present the parable of the Good Samaritan.
  • Panels 13-23 present material from the book of Genesis.
  • Panel 24 presents Christ in Majesty.

Signature Panels: The Shoemakers[edit]

The demi-quatrefoil base comprises three signature panels (Panels 1-3) showing the donors of the window—the shoemakers. The cordonniers (shoemakers) had their shops on the rue de la Petite-Cordonnerie, a few steps from the south transept portals[12] (The shoemakers also donated the Death of the Virgin window).[12] Panels 1 and 2 picture them at work cutting leather and making cord soles.

Panel 3 presents a group of seven individuals presenting a stylized window; the panel is labeled "sutores o[btulerunt?]" (the shoemakers o[ffer?]"). The shoemakers are noted as having had a master in 1210; perhaps the leading figure, dressed in a green and red-brown, represents this master.[13] Some of the figures watch the presentation of the window, others are looking up to Panel 4 where Jesus is delivering the Good Samaritan parable to two Pharisees. In the upper right hand of Panel 3 is the hand with pointing finger (the dextera domini)[14] extruding from foliage(?) apparently blessing the work and the window of the shoemakers.

"Panel 16 - God warning Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge"[15]

Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)[edit]

Panels 5-12 present the parable of the Good Samaritan; they are preceded by Christ telling the parable to two Pharisees who had asked "Who is my neighbor?" One of the Pharisees wears the Judenhut or pilleus cornutus, a cone-shaped pointed hat worn by Jews in medieval Europe and some of the Islamic world. Jesus is seated with his right hand raised and his left hand holding a book, perhaps the book of the Gospels (Panel 4). The parable panels then follow: A traveler, described in the window as peregrinus or pilgrim leaves Jerusalem (see red coloring of gate interior (Panel 5), is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead along the road by robbers. First a priest and then a Levite come by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan comes to the traveler’s aid and provides for his care until he should return.

Genesis Materials (Genesis 2-4)[edit]

Stories from Genesis 2-4 are presented in the next eleven panels, beginning with Paradise and the creations of Adam and Eve, the temptation and Fall, and the fruits of the Fall (expulsion from Eden, hard labor, and murder) (Panels 13-23). Panel 14 (discussed below as well) is the central panel of the whole window: Adam, who is at the center of Creation, is placed at the center of the middle of the second medallion cluster. In Panel 21 we see Adam delving and Eve spinning. It has been suggested that Adam as sator (sower or planter) is a play on words for a shoemaker, sutor, and that Eve’s distaff echoes the shoemaker’s awl. Panel 23 concludes the Genesis narrative with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain and is perhaps an echo of the Good Samaritan robbers beating the pilgrim.[16]

Christ In Majesty[edit]

The crowing panel presents Christ in majesty, seated upon a rainbow with one adoring angel on either side. The Lord holds in his hand what seems to be either an orb or a loaf of bread—this latter is not commonly part of the iconography of the Maiestas Domini[17] (Panel 24). But if this round and brown object is bread its use in the image may signify that Christ himself is the "provision for the journey"—the viaticum. Panel 14, showing a prelapsarian Adam, echoes Panel 24: Adam is seated on a leaf or branch coming from one of the two trees; the curves of the trees suggest the mandorla typical of Maiestas Domini iconography. He stretches out his right hand in a gesture of authority and holds an orb in his left.[18]

Theme: Pilgrimage[edit]

Pilgrimage is clearly the dominating motif of the Good Samaritan window. Good shoes, such as those provided by the shoemakers of Chartres (Panels 1-3), and food for the journey (if indeed bread is what is shown in Panel 24) are basic necessities for the successful completion of a journey. The window then reproduces in visual form the allegorical interpretations of the parable of the Good Samaritan from such theologians as Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Bede, and others who saw the combined narratives as an allegory of humankind (the traveler), which, damaged at the fall and robbed of its divine likeness (just as the traveler was beaten and robbed), can receive no true salvation from the Old Law (the priest and Levite) but only from Christ (the Samaritan, who will return) and the Church (the inn, which provides aid until the Samaritan does return). The tropological conclusion of the combined narratives is recognition by the viewer of the need to strive for restoration of the likeness of God damaged in the Fall, a central means of which is the practice of charity.[19]

The man leaving Jerusalem is Adam and is symbolic of fallen humanity leaving Paradise (note the common red door motif [in Panel 5 and in Panel 20]). The thieves who stripped and beat him represent the devil and other hostile powers who attack fallen humanity and leave them ‘half-dead’ with sin. The priest and Levite represent the old dispensation and its inability to provide salvation. The Samaritan is Jesus, who rescues fallen humanity from their sin, brings them to the ‘inn’ of the Church, and promises to return again." Panel 24, as mentioned above, shows us Christ in Majesty, who will return to judge the living and the dead; the bread the Christ holds in his hands may represent the Eucharist which Christ has given us as a pledge of future glory.[19]

The Good Samaritan Window[edit]


Map to Good Samaritan window image under "Narrative" section and key to "Trade Panels" section.[1]
The full Good Samaritan and Creation Window, "donated by the Shoemakers' Guild."[11] Three sections consist of the stories of the Good Samaritan of Jesus's Lukan parable as well as the creation and fall accounts of the biblical book of Genesis.

The Panels of Chartres Cathedral Windows, Creation and the Good Samaritan, contain 24 stained-glass windows. Plates one through three depict shoemakers, the funders of the window. Panels four through twelve from bottom to top depict the Story of the Good Samaritan, and the other panels - thirteen to twenty-four - depict the Story of Creation. These are the themes of the planes depicting the story of the Good Samaritan:

1 - Signature panel (a shoemaker cutting leather)

2 - Signature panel (shoemakers making cord soles)

3 - Signature panel (donation of the window)

4 - Christ telling the parable to a couple of Pharisees

5 - The pilgrim leaving Jerusalem

6 - A bandit prepares to attack the pilgrim

7 - The pilgrim is beaten, robbed and stripped

8 - A Priest and a Levite see the injured man but walk on past

9 - A Samaritan binds the injured man's wounds

10 - The Samaritan leading the Pilgrim to an inn (left panel of two)

11 - An innkeeper welcoming the Samaritan (right panel of pair)

12 - At the inn, the Samaritan nurses the injured man back to health

These are the themes of the planes depicting the story of Creation from the Book of Genesis: Chapter 2, vs. 7, 15-17, 20-22; Chapter 3, vs. 1-10, 16-18, 21-24; Chapter 4, vs. 1-8:

13 - God breathing life into Adam

14 - Adam dwelling in Paradise

15 - God creates Eve out of Adam's rib

16 - God warning Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge

17 - Adam and Eve conversing beneath the tree of knowledge

18 - Tempted by the serpent, Eve tastes the forbidden fruit

19 - God finds Adam and Eve hiding their nakedness

20 - An angel casts Adam and Eve out of Paradise

21 - Labouring in the wilderness; Adam digs and Eve spins

22 - God instructing Adam and Eve how to live in the wilderness

23 - Cain murdering his brother Abel with a sickle

24 - Christ in Majesty, seated on the rainbow

Signature Panels[edit]

Christ in Majesty[edit]

Panel twenty-four, the image of Christ in Majesty, depicts Christ in glory.

"Christ in Majesty, holding an orb and seated on the rainbow, flanked by adoring angels"[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The head of the figure on the left is a later repair
  2. ^ "Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass - Bay 44 (Good Samaritan) Panel 04". Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  3. ^ a b Williams, Jane W. (1993). Bread, Wine, & Money. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  4. ^ Anne F. Harris, "Stained Glass Window as Thing: Heidegger, the Shoemaker Panels, and the Commercial and Spiritual Economies of Chartres Cathedral in the Thirteenth Century," Different Visions: A Journal of New Perspectives on Medieval Art 1 (September 2008) accessed on 12/31/2015. A few detailed images from the Genesis section of the window are reproduced in Nancy Honicker, "Bleu de Chartres," FMR 34: (2009): 109-28.
  5. ^ The parable tells how a man set out from Jerusalem for Jericho, was attacked on the road and left for dead. A passing priest and Levite ignored him but a despised Samaritan found him, bound his wounds and took him to rest at an inn, promising to pay the landlord for his stay.
  6. ^ Christopher G. Hughes, "Art and Exegesis," in A Companion to Medieval Art, Conrad Rudolph, ed. (Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), 173-92 at 185, 186.
  7. ^ "Chartres," The Grove Dictionary of Medieval Art and Architecture, edited by Colum Hourihan, 5 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 2: 29-37 at 37.
  8. ^ The windows from Sens and Bourges are presented in Hughes, "Art and Exegesis," 185-186 as well as in Emile Mâle, L'art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France: étude sur l'iconographie du moyen âge et sur ses sources d'inspiration, 2nd ed. (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1925), 197-99. See also Judith A. Kidd, Behind the Image. Understanding the Old Testament in Medieval Art (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2014).
  9. ^ Colette and Jean-Paul Deremble, Vitraux de Chartres (Paris: Éditions Zodiaque, 2003), 186.
  10. ^ accessed on 29 December 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Genesis202 NRSV - - Bible Gateway". Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  12. ^ a b Jean Villette, Guide des vitraux de Chartres (Rennes: Ouest-France, 1987), 114.
  13. ^ Jane Welch Wilson, Bread, Wine & Money: The Windows of the Trades at Chartres Cathedral (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 11.
  14. ^ Peter and Linda Murray, The Oxford Companion to Christian Art and Architecture (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), s.v. "Dextera Domini," p. 136.
  15. ^ "Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass - Bay 44 (Good Samaritan) Panel 16". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  16. ^ Deremble, Vitraux, 189.
  17. ^ Murray, The Oxford Companion s.v. "Maiestas Domini," pp. 295-96.
  18. ^ Deremble, Vitraux, 186.
  19. ^ a b Conrad Rudolph, "The Parabolic Discourse Window and the Canterbury Roll: Social Change and the Assertion of Elite Status at Canterbury Cathedral," Oxford Art Journal 38 (July 2015)
  20. ^ "Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass - Bay 44 (Good Samaritan) Panel 24". Retrieved 2015-12-17.