Our Lady of Chartres is par excellence a cathedral of images, both carved and painted. Portals to west, north and south are guarded and enlivened by scenes of the climactic events of the Christian faith.
By ranks of statues in which Old and New Testament characters join hands with the heroes of the Church and by a multitude of allegories spelling out the spiritual significance of life as experienced in the Middle Ages, whether in its economic, intellectual or moral aspects.
The sculpture declares a mission to teach and preach, and the hand of learning is heavy upon it.
Congregations of pious laymen are to be imagined foregathered outside the portals, being induced into the appropriate state of mind before entering the cathedral to participate in its services.
All this began c. 1140, more or less at the moment when the cathedral school went into decline, rather as though popular education for the masses took the place of higher education for the clergy.