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The Ark of Convenant

The Ark of Convenant


On a pillar of the North Portal in the middle in front of the Portal of the Glorification of the Blessed Virgin, the Ark of the Covenant can be seen with its content. The Ark is a trunk where the strap hinges in forged iron and the lock are precisely sculpted. The Tables of the Law received by Moses, the vessel which did received the manna and Aaron rod in blossom are perfectly represented.

On the right, the Philistines massacring Heli’s sons, Ophni and Phinees. They are going to get hold of it in spite of Philistines soldiers. Destroyed during the French Revolution you still may see the on the higher-relief the bottom part of one of them with the sword-belt, sword being in its sheath. The other one wears an conic helmet and hold a spear. Both Heli’s sons, wearing long dresses fall down. Hearing about their death, Heli fall down too and broke his skull.

Just below on the left, is a statue of Dâgon, idol worshipped by the Philistines, drop from its pedestal. A witness on the left shows is surprised by raising his hands.

The Philistines, realizing that the ownership of the Ark bring them bad luck, decide to return it to the Hebrews. A Philistine priest, his hands covered by veils, take the Ark (1)

Several hypothesis have been drawn from this representation. The Ark of the Covenant could be buried under the Cathedral after having taken back from Jerusalem in 1118 bu the French Knights. This is a pure legend started in 1966 (2)

On the bottom of the column one can read:

HIC AMMTVP. (for: amittitur) ARCHA (for: arca) CEDERIS (for: federis)
IE: Here is lost the Ark of the Covenant.

The last base shows the arrival of the Ark coming home with the Hebrews. The trunk made of precious woods rest upon a four-wheeled wagon. Here too, the iron work is very precise. The artist did not forget the strange “gold rats” and other “gold tumors” mentioned in Samuel (I-6) along with other calamities and frightening events. Tumors has been represented as spirals, as when core comes out from abscess. Thick clouds sculpted above the Ark, may remind the storm sent by God, as describe in legendary addition to the original Bible or the ash-cloud symbolizing God’s presence in Exodus. According to the Bible, 2 cows are harnessed to the four-wheeled wagon carrying the Ark.  They are not leaded by their instinct toward the Hebrews, but by an angel (on extreme left) (4)

(1) Jean Villette, 1994, Les portails de la cathédrale de Chartres, éditions Jean-Michel Garnier
(2) Ibidem
(3) Louis Charpentier Les mystères de la cathédrale de Chartres, Robert Laffont, collection les énigmes de l'univers,1966
(4) Jean Villette, 1994, Les portails de la cathédrale de Chartres, éditions Jean-Michel Garnier
(5) BIBLE : Exode 25 –10 -21


The word “edût” translated by “testimony” is known as the contents of a treaty imposed to its vassal by his Lord. The “Testimony” here, is the Decalogue, written on the stone tables and known as “Tables of the testimony”. Consequently, the Ark is also named “Ark of the Testimony”.

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See the sign, the ancient symbolism
by Ralph M.Lewis, éditions rosicruciennes, 1988

In the old time, a Temple was a place on the ground, dedicated to worship. A place for men and women to gather to offer sacrifices and meditate. This was the holy place. The notion of building was absent. It was only a place. It was usual to prepare in the center of this place a small altar to figure the presence of God. This center toke the name of Saint of the Saint, or Sanctum Sanctorum, and the altar became Ark, or Shekinah. Latter on, they kept those names and places in the Temples to protect them. This exact location in the center was supposed to be the place where the spirit of God was visiting on earth. The belief in many religions is now that when a man dedicate an object or a place or a circumstance of his life to God, God come down and make the place holy because of their consecration.

The symbolism of the Christian Temple
By Jean Hani, Guy Trédaniel éditeur, 1990

(page 27)[...] The various sanctuaries of the Ancient Testament have been built according to God’s indications. It is said, about Betzeliel and Aholiab, architects of the Ark of the Covenant, that God "And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach of the tibe of Dan. Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work …" (EX, 35, 34)

 (page 113, 114)[...] The main altar replace the shethiyah stone supporting the Ark, since it supports the tabernacle. Tabernacle means : tent, and was for the Hebrews the Saint and the Saint of the Saint. This why the tabernacle may be considered as a reduction of the Temple and why, it reminds by its proportions and its usage the Ark (arca : trunk). The Ark was protecting the Tables of the Law, Aaron’s Rod and a measure of manna.
This is where, between the Cherubs, that could be seen the Shekinah, the "Glory" or divine "Presence". In the Christian tabernacle rest the true manna, the "living Bread descended from the Heaven". In certain churches  (ex : Meslay-le-Vidame 28, note from BG), "Glory" may be seen : a glowing triangle with the divine name in its center : YHWH; its a symbolic materialization of the Shekinah.
The little curtains in front of the tabernacle remind the tent in the desert and the veil hiding the Saint of the Saint. [...] In the chapel of Germiny-des-Prés (IXè siècle), near Saint Benoist-sur-Loire a Byzantine mosaic on the ceiling represents the Ark of the Covenant with the angels and god’s hand. A Latin inscription below tells : "Look at the Saint Oracle and the Cherubs. Observe the magnificence of the Ark of God and  then, hope to touch  the Master of the Thunder with your priers" [...]


Copyright © 1999 Bernard Gasté

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