Notre-Dame de Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims is the Reims Cathedral, where the kingss of France used to be crowned. It replaced an older church (burned in 1211) built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, the bishop of Reims in A.D. 496. The cathedral, with the exception of the west front, was completed by the end of the 13th century. That portion was erected in the 14th century after 13th century designs— the nave having in the meantime been lengthened to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1481 fire destroyed the roof and the spires.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. This façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the most perfect masterpieces of the middle ages. -
- The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin, is surmounted by a rose-window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary. The “gallery of the kings” above has the baptism of Clovis in the centre and statues of his successors.

The towers, 267 ft. high, were originally designed to rise 394 ft.; that on the south contains two great bells, one of which, named “Charlotte” by Cardinal de Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 11 tons. The façades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures—that on the north with statues of the principal bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Christ (le Beau Dieu) while that on the south side has a beautiful rose-window with the prophets and apostles. Of the four towers which flanked the transepts nothing remains above the height of the roof since the fire of 1481. Above the choir rises an elegant bell-tower in timber and lead, 59 ft. high, reconstructed in the 15th century.

The interior of the cathedral is 455 ft. long, 98 ft. wide in the nave, and 125 ft. high in the centre, and comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with deambulatory and radiating chapels. It has a profusion of statues similar to those of the outside, and stained glass of the 13th century. The rose-window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under Francois I, representing the life of the Virgin. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Several paintings, by Tintoretto, Nicolas Poussin, and others, and the carved woodwork and the railings of the choir, also deserve mention.

The treasury contains the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one broken at the French Revolution, a fragment of which it contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral, the Former Abbey of Saint-Remi and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.


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