IMAGES OF MEDIEVAL ART AND ARCHITECTURE
FRANCE: CHARTRES (CATHEDRAL OF NOTRE-DAME)
Masons' marks, or the inscribed signature symbols of masons on a building's stones, appear most frequently in Medieval Europe. Their purpose in medieval buildings, particularly churches and cathedrals, is not entirely known; scholars have offered several hypotheses, but the problem is complicated by different uses for the marks at different times and places. The following description is a simplification of a common thread in current research. The mason, after completing his apprenticeship, would either be assigned a mark, choose one himself, or adapt that of his father or uncle, and would be known in the profession by this symbol. When working on a building, particularly a large one, the mason would carve his mark into each stone he cut or carved. This enabled an accurate account of his work and payment by his "banker," which accounts for the rare alternate name of "banker's mark." At what location these marks were made - at the quarry or the building site - is still debated. There is evidence for both the cutter and the carver to mark their stones, as well as the marking of stones for statues to indicate assembly order. It is fortunate to be able to view the surviving masons' marks; since they were construction symbols, they would have originally been covered up by frescoes, plaster, or other surface treatments. It is also probable that stones with no visible mark may have one that can no longer be seen due to placement. Their use by present-day scholars and architectural historians to trace a building's construction history has in some cases, such as Chartres Cathedral, led some to rethink a building's established chronology. The following symbols represent each unique mason's mark amongst those photographed for this website in May 2005, and do not include all marks present at the cathedral.
There are two ways to view photographs of the marks: by symbol type and by location in the building. Chick on either an icon below or a location to the left, and see all related images in the collection. To see which marks appear in each building location, move the cursor over the text links to the left, and the marks will be outlined in red.
A Catalogue of Photographed Masons' Marks at Chartres Cathedral
Bibliography for Masons' Marks
Chartres Main Page
© Philip Maye
Last updated on
June 9, 2006.