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Lawrence of Chartres 

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 27, 2022

📍 🇫🇷 Lawrence of Chartres

A 20 year-old T.E. Lawrence (aka “Lawrence of Arabia”, 1888-1935 CE) sent many letters to his mother during a bicycle trip around France in the rainy summer of 1908. This is the journey that sparked  the idea of comparing medieval castles in Western Europe with Crusader forts built in the Near East. After traveling to Lebanon and Syria in 1909 for closer archaeological inspections, he managed to write a thesis on the matter, receiving top grades at Oxford University, UK. Barely six years later, he was chosen by the British government to co-lead the military effort that would topple the Ottoman Empire at the height of its five-century-long hold.

But let’s rewind to 1908.

That summer, young Lawrence writes (from Chartres) words that tell much about his personality and about a force of character that will soon alter the course of history… :

"Dear Mother, What I found in this French Cathedral, I cannot describe - it is absolutely untouched and unspoilt, in superb preservation and the noblest building that I have ever seen... I went in before breakfast and I left when dark - all the day I was running from one door to another, finding in each something I thought finer than the one I had just left, and then returning to find that the finest was that in front of me.

“For it is a place absolutely impossible to imagine, or to recollect, at any rate for me: it is overwhelming, and when night came I was absolutely exhausted, drenched to the skin (it had poured all day) and yet with a feeling I had never had before in the same degree - as though I had found a path (a hard one) as far as the gates of Heaven, and had caught a glimpse of the inside, the gate being ajar..."

____ Sources ____

>> T.E. Lawrence, “Selected letters” by Michael Brown, 2007

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