The city of Chartres has a population of 38,750, and is the capital of the Eure et Loir department. Like Chichester, the city dates back to pre-Roman times. During the Gallo-Roman period, it was an important settlement, known as Autricum.
Its most famous landmark, the gothic Cathédrale de Notre Dame, was built between 1194 and 1220 (around the same time as Notre Dame in Paris), and is still an important destination for pilgrims. Around the cathedral, a prosperous medieval city grew up, an important trading centre for the Beauce region, known as ‘the granary of France’.
Chartres suffered damage from heavy bombing in World War II and during the Liberation of 1944. The cathedral was spared however, when American army officer, Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith questioned the order to destroy it and the advancing American forces left it intact.
Today Chartres and its surrounding region house a mix of traditional and modern industries, including France’s principal centre for perfumery and cosmetics production, known as Cosmetic Valley. The annual Chartres en Lumières, which attracts thousands of visitors, is a dazzling light show illuminating the city’s most important buildings.