Detailed description of Chartres Zodiac and Labors of the Month Window
This early 13th century window was restored in 1993, and was donated, again, by vintners, carrying hoes in the tiny bottom corners (1 and 2), and pruning a vine in the bottom left circle (3). Opposite (4) is Count Thibault VI of Chartres… greeted by a group of kneeling people. Beneath his horse’s hooves is a Latin inscription, very difficult to decipher, because of earlier restorations, but which suggests that the window was donated by Thibault on behalf of Thomas, a count of Perche. Between these two signatures is another curious scene which takes place beneath an arch (5) probably inside a church. A bent figure is pulling upon a rope, perhaps bell-ringing, whilst two others (6), holding sticks, stand by watching.
The rest of this window should be read bottom upwards, with the Zodiac signs in the right half, including the central quatrefoils, and the corresponding monthly labors in the left half, the whole representing a calendar, the cycle of a year.
The Roman deity Janus (7), origin of the word January, is not feasting at a table, as on the Royal portal and elsewhere, but is standing, opening doors that represent the new year. Janus is usually represented two-faced, the one aged, the other youthful, again suggesting the cycle of time. The Janus shown here is a rarer example of a triple-faced figure: time being composed of a past, present, and future. He shares the quatrefoil with Aquarius (8) dressed in red and pouring water from a yellow pot.
Warmly clothed and hooded, February (9) is seated by a roaring fire toasting his hands and feet. Beside him is a jug of wine and a poker. Opposite (10), Pisces is represented in the usual way: two fish, head-to-tail, their mouths linked by a cord. March (11) is a hooded peasant pruning his vine. Opposite (12), is Aries, a ram standing amongst trees.
The months of April and May are inverted, so that, in the next central quatrefoil, are May (15) and Gemini (16). May is portrayed as a helmeted soldier, wearing chain-mail, carrying a shield and holding a banner, whilst his saddled horse grazes near him. Gemini, the Twins, in the same panel, are naked, and hold hands.
April (13), the month when nature is reborn, is personified by a woman standing between flowering trees, holding a bouquet of flowers in each hand.
Taurus, the Bull (14), like Aries, stands amongst trees. June (17) is mowing with a blue scythe. The inscription is JULIUS, although it is not certain whether this is an original mistake or that of a later restorer. Cancer (18) is a red crab-like creature. July (19) again has a mistaken inscription, JUNIUS, and is represented by a peasant cutting wheat with a sickle. He shares the third quatrefoil with Leo (20), the Lion.
August (21) is stripped to the waist and, with a flail, is threshing wheat. Various farming instruments are stacked to either side of him. Virgo (22), like April, holds flowers in each hand. September (23) is portrayed as two vintners cutting bunches of grapes off a vine, and treading them in a vat. Libra (24) is represented by a woman holding a pair of scales.
In the next quatrefoil, October (25) sits astride a barrel into which he is pouring new wine, and Scorpio (26) is shown as a green creature, with a twisted string-tipped tail.
November (27), although the inscription is DECEMBER is about to stun a pig with the back of an axe. Sagittarius (28) is a centaur, half man half beast, holding a bow in one hand, and arrows in the other. December (29) is feasting at a table on which are three Christian symbols, bread, wine and fish, as on the Last Supper table, and Capricorn (30) is half goat and half fish, the fish being a symbol for Jesus, whose advent is feasted in the sign of Capricorn. He (31), as Chronocrator, is enthroned in the uppermost panel. He is seated between two candles, and the Greek letters alpha and omega. Time, hence, is both linear and cyclic.
(Text by Malcolm Miller, from the book Chartres Cathedral)
January (as the triple-faced Roman God Janus) looks to the past, present, and future
A man warms his limbs before a fireplace
Pruning the vines
Presenting spring blossoms
May + Gemini
A crusader lets his horse feed on spring grass + Gemini
Mowing hay with a scythe
July + Leo
Harvesting wheat with a sickle + Leo
Threshing wheat with a flail
Harvesting and pressing grapes
October + Scorpio
Barreling wine + Scorpio
A pig fattened with acorns is slaughtered
Feasting on the produce of the year
The Alpha and the Omega
“… a year represents for a man not a line, but a rippling and scintillating web of trans-temporal echoes.
A year is not at all a unit of individual time, as we often suppose, but rather the scenery through which personal time passes. For man’s time moves against the background of the Earth’s time.” – Rodney Collin (The Theory of Celestial Influence – Ch 11, Man in Time – Part III, Superhuman and Subhuman Times)