When you enter this chapel built in the 13th century, you are overcome by emotion. Four new glass roofs literally illuminate us. And for good reason, Bang Hai Ja, the artist who created them, is known for bringing light out of her works.

The proposal from this octogenarian of Korean origin was chosen from 26 submissions by a jury made up of architects, museologists, local notables and representatives of the Church. “We were open about the style,” explains Irène Jourd’heuil, curator of historic monuments at the Ministry of Culture and manager of the Chartres Cathedral restoration project, regarding the call for tenders. “It was important to leave artists and master glassmakers free to do figurative or abstract work. As we exhibit treasures in this chapel, we however had fairly strong requirements in terms of security of the premises. We needed solid glass resistant to a possible intrusion attempt, which protects against mechanical shocks such as hail and which prevents condensation phenomena. »

To support him in preparing his file, Bang Hai Ja called on his brother Hun, who takes care of his career from Montreal.

In addition to having been a musician in the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, violinist for Gilles Vigneault, founder of the Orchester métropolitain, producer of records and events, Hun Bang has always looked out for the interests of his big sister. “It was she who allowed me to continue my training as a violinist in Paris in 1964,” he says. When I arrived in France, she encouraged me to make a pilgrimage to Chartres. Hers, in 1961, had left its mark on her. »

The four windows of the Saint-Piat chapel were created from works on paper. Nara Bang, Hun’s computer scientist son, took charge, pixel by pixel, of the photocomposition necessary to obtain the irregular and gigantic dimensions of the four stained glass windows.

After a series of virtual back-and-forths between Montreal and Bang Hai Ja’s workshop in Ardèche, the enormous files were sent to Glasmalerei Peters in Paderborn, Germany, the glass workshop with which the artist has collaborated since 2012 .

For Irène Jourd’heuil, the artist and her master glassmaker demonstrated great chemistry. “The technical work done by the Peters workshops is truly to be commended. We have two glass roofs. On the outside, thermoforming gives relief to the glass. Inside, it changes the perception a lot. The transparency and superposition of the two windows create depth, which magnifies the artist’s work. »

Having died on September 15, 2022, Bang Hai Ja never saw the final result, but her vision was unequivocal. “I lived in the Buddhist atmosphere at birth, knew the love of Christ and the freedom of the Taoists,” she says in a 2019 video. “All of this mixed in my body to be able to give with all my heart a message of light. I hope that this chapel will be more than a tourist place, that it will become a place of pilgrimage where visitors will gather to bear witness in turn to the light that inhabits them. »

The Saint-Piat chapel, closed since 2000, will reopen its doors in December. The public will find the treasures that were once exhibited there, carefully restored medieval frescoes and a surprising archaeological discovery. The cleaning of one of the frescoes revealed a drawing of the Chartes Cathedral made before it was even completed.

“This image of the 14th century cathedral that we have just discovered is the oldest that we know,” says Irène Jourd’heuil. Despite the hundreds of thousands of square meters of stained glass in the cathedral, there is not a single representation of the building itself, and here we have it in painting. It is very moving. We see what the perception of this building was at the time. Its builders were already aware of its major importance on the scale of Christianity. »

With all these new things to see, Chartres continues to attract pilgrims from all over the world.

Chartres Cathedral is one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals in France. Dedicated to Notre-Dame, it was mainly built at the beginning of the 13th century over a period of 30 years.

Among the reasons for its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List are its stained glass windows. Major work has just cleared them of decades of dirt. The multi-million euro restoration plan also cleans the walls and columns of the cathedral, returning the interior of the building to its original luminosity.

More than a million people visit Chartres every year. Many are drawn to its labyrinth, which dates back to the 12th century. The pattern, on the floor of the cathedral, has a diameter of 12.89 m, while the unfolding is 261.50 m.

The singer Sting, who released the album Songs from the Labyrinth in 2006, reaffirmed his attachment to Chartres ten years later by revealing that he had the motif of the labyrinth tattooed on his back.