Back in about the year 500, Clovis, having killed off all the other Frankish kings and having been converted to Christianity by his wife, became the first king of France and was baptized by the bishop of Reims in the original church here. Thus, Reims became the birthplace of Christianity in France. The church was replaced by the current cathedral and has remained the place for crowning most of the subsequent kings of France.
It is indeed a grand cathedral and covered with statues, in fact between 2,000 and 3,000. One of the beloved ones is the “Smiling Angel” which was decapitated during WWI. It was restored from castings taken earlier and stored in Paris and has become a major symbol for the city.
The façade is a very striking combination of three intricately carved portals with a rose window in the central one, a rose window above that and a gallery of the kings of France above that. One could spend days just admiring and studying the façade. The interior is no less absorbing, with another several hundred statues and marvelous stained glass, a lot from the 13th Century as well as some very modern ones and a beautiful one by Marc Chagall. One of my favorite statues inside is one of Joan of Arc who brought Charles VII here to be crowned and legitimized.
The site of the coronation of France's kings for centuries, la Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is among the most important in French history. It is also considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, listed as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. The Gothic edifice lies in the heart of the city on the site of two prior cathedrals. The first was erected by Saint Nicaise in 401 AD, and it is where the first King of the Franks, Clovis I, was baptised by Saint Rémi, Bishop of Reims, upon his conversion from Arianism to Roman Catholicism in 496 AD. A much larger mediaeval cathedral replaced the original paleo-Christian structure in the 9th century AD, but a fire destroyed it in 1210 AD. This prompted the Archbishop, Aubry de Humbert, to build a new cathedral in the same style and grandeur as those seen in Paris, Saint-Denis and Chartres. By 1285, the interior of the new cathedral had been completed, while the exterior took over a century longer, with the towers not finished until the 15th century. In total, about 2300 intricately carved statues decorate the exterior of this magnificent cathedral. Unfortunately, the Cathedral suffered during WWI bombings, but any damage was later restored.
For more photos, go to the travelogue: "Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims - Exterior."
Notre-Dame de Reims is one of Europe's most important Gothic structures. A World Heritage site, the 13th century cathedral has characteristics all its own, in particular its lighting, statuary and unity of style.
Notre-Dame boasts an exceptionally rich statuary. The cathedral is adorned with 2,303 statues, including the famous Smiling Angel, whose jovial expression reflects the Champagne School of the 13th century.
Located in the heart of the city, the cathedral's towers rise above the rooftops of Reims to a height of 81 m. The nave, whose triple-level design is characteristic of the period in which it was built, has a vaulted ceiling some 38 m high. The cathedral is almost 150 m long.
The cathedral is also remarkable for its luminosity, making it a model of the genre in Gothic Europe. A profusion of rosewindows, as well as the delicacy of the windows make this colossal structure remarkably balanced and light.
The baptism of Clovis, around the year 498, gave birth to the Kingdom of the Franks. This exceptional event explains the choice of Reims as the coronation city.
13th, 20th (Chagall, 1974) and 21th century (Knoebel, 2011) stained-glass windows.
Open everyday from 7.30am to 7.30pm (except during services). To visit the upper parts : apply to Palais of Tau.
Outdoor lighting of the cathedral at nightfall.
2011 : 800th anniversary of Notre-Dame and sound & light show "Rêve de couleurs":
Guided tour of the towers: every week-end from 15 March to 5 May and from 9 September to 31 October. Tuesday through Sunday from 6 May to 8 September.
Information at Palace of Tau
As impressive as i thought the outside was, I was even more taken aback by the interior. The building looks big from the outside, but when you step inside you really realize how large it is. The light from the stained glass windows streamed in and filled the cathedral.
We walked around the perimeter of the cathedral looking at the small chapels and lighting candles in memory of our loved ones. Behind the altar are the stained glass windows that were created by Marc Chagall - very beautiful.
We sat in the main area of the cathedral and just looked at the altar and listened to the chorus that was practicing. Very nice.
The cathedral is definitely a highlight of the region and should not be missed.
The Cathedral of Reims is an 800 year old gothic structure which sits prominently in the center of Reims, France. The soaring towers and spires draw your eyes high into the heavens, while the detailed carvings and sculptures bring them back down to earth. Having read about the history of the cathedral and its restorations during the ages, I was extremely pleased when it came into sight as we approached by foot.
It really is quite spectacular to see the architectural details and the immenseness of the structure. It's easy to see why the French held the coronations of their many kings here.
Open everyday from 7.30am to 7.30pm (except during services).
Outdoor lighting of the cathedral at nightfall.
This is THE BEST reason to go visiting Reims.
This photograph I took walking away from the Cathedral direction river Marne when I had to wait at a crossing and suddenly saw the wonderful building reflected in the mirror-like façade of the MEDIATHEQUE CATHEDRALE....
You can clearly see that the late afternoon sun is shining on the Cathedral's façade and that the skies are still blue......
THE CATHEDRAL IS UNESCO LISTED AS WORLD HERITAGE!
The days were wonderful.........I love France...
The Cathedral is open daily from 7.30AM till 7.30PM but of course not during services.
For more info: apply at the Palais du Tau.
In winter visiting times may differ so take care to be informed well!
The northern side of the Cathedral of Reims is almost as elaborately decorated as the main façade. Niches line the upper part and contain a series of statues of angels that gave the cathedral the nickname la Cathédrale des Anges, Cathedral of Angels. (A similar set of statues decorate the southern side, but the famous Smiling Angel is located on the main façade.) Three Gothic portals on the northern side lead into the transept of the Cathedral, while a large rose window lights up the interior. The elaborate statues that cover the arches above the central and left hand portals are older than those on the façade and similarly depict Biblical scenes. The right hand portal predates the Cathedral and is a rare surviving element from the previous 9th century Romanesque structure. The Romanesque style is visible in the decorations and the rounded (instead of pointed) arch immediately above the door. Outside these portals, a cobbled path leads to the 16th century Porte du Chapitre, which was the main entrance into the enclosure of the Cathedral.
Similar in design to Notre Dame de Paris, the magnificent façade of Notre Dame de Reims distinguishes itself by its verticality. Whereas the Parisian façade conveys order, the Reims Cathedral emphasises height and leads the gaze upwards by the numerous pinnacles of its gables and triangular pediments. An incredible number of statues covers the façade, beginning with the three arched portals and rising to the lower level of the towers: Biblical scenes, prophets and saints, angels, and of course, Jesus and Mary. The famous "Ange au Sourire" statue (smiling angel) stands within the left hand arched portal of the façade (covered in scaffolding when I visited!). The baptism of the Frankish King Clovis I by Saint Rémi is depicted at the centre of the top row of statues (la Galerie des Rois). Many of these statues are replicas of the originals, which were damaged over time, particularly during WWI, and were moved to Palais de la Tau for display and preservation.
The interior of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is of enormous proportions. It measures 138 metres in length, while the central nave rises over three levels to a height of 38 metres. The floor plan is designed on a Latin cross shape, with a central nave flanked by two aisles, and a choir encircled by an ambulatory and six radiating chapels. A series of brass Gothic chandeliers, suspended from the height of the vaulted ceiling, light up the interior together with the windows of the central nave. The inner side of the main (western) façade is unique in Gothic architecture with its rows of niches containing statues. Above those statues is the magnificent rose window of the façade, which adds colourful hues to the interior, supplemented by the smaller rose windows of the portals.
For more photos, turn to the travelogue: "Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims - Interior."
One generation after the west end of Chartres Cathedral was in place, the creatipn of life size sculptured figures were begun on the lateral wings of the west portals of Reims. At the same time, in the 1220's, Chartres was creating excellent more advanced works around the North and South doors of their Cathedral. Those at Reims progressed more slowly and with four sequential sets of workers. One statue of a "Smiling Angel" is often pictured in Art Books. So attractive was the idea of creating sculpture that by the time Reims was finished, there were over 2300 on that building. More original than the facade at Reims was the covering of the inner side of the west entry with many sets of statuary around the Great Rose Window and the lateral portals.
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