Reims is the principal city of France’s Champagne region, renowned of course for its sparkling wine. Its reputation as a wine-producing region dates back to Roman times. Reims has been sacred to the Kings of France since the year 496, when the Merovingian King Clovis was baptized here. Accordingly, latter kings also wished to be crowned here, up until Charles X in 1825.
Reims’ most distinguished feature is the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the must-see cathedrals in northern France. I am in love with Gothic cathedrals, whose airy walls and soaring buttresses seem to defy gravity and make visitors feel quite humble and insignificant. Indeed such was the purpose of this lofty creation.
For me, Gothic architecture is one of the most inspiring of all of mankind’s creations.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame Cathedral was heavily damaged during WWI when bombings destroyed many of the irreplaceable stained glass windows and damaged many of the statues. These statues on the facade still show some of the scars of war.
Stained glass windows
Many of Reims’ famous stained glass windows were blown to bits during fighting in WWI. Many of the surviving panels depict scenes of wine production, the principal industry of the region. Some have been replaced by biblical-themed works by Russian-French painter Marc Chagall.
Maid of Orléans
During the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, Joan of Arc, Jeanne D’Arc in French, inspired and rallied France to eventual victory. In 1429, she brought Charles VII, the Dauphin, to Reims to be coronated. She was tried as a witch and burned at the stake by the English in 1431. Almost 500 years later, she was canonized as a saint. An equestrian statue next to the Cathedral commemorates France’s heroine.
Writing this is making me think of the song “Joan of Arc” by OMD.
Notre Dame Cathedral
A useful trick I’ve learned for shooting ceilings is to lay the camera on the floor and set it off via either timer or remote release.
The cathedral is Reims’ most visible feature and can be seen from the autoroute. In June, unfortunately the cathedral was under renovation, as were many of the attractions throughout several cities we visited.
The intricacies defy imagination.
Taking pictures inside cathedrals require a tripod. I had some consternation at first about being able to use a tripod inside the cathedral, it turned out that using a tripod is fine! In fact, in my experience shooting churches in 4 countries, unless specifically forbidden, you can use a tripod to your heart’s content. Of course, one should take care not to get in the way of other visitors, and not to take pictures of the altar during service. PS: You can’t use a tripod in Sainte-Chapelle, though there’s no sign saying so.
Last visit: 2003 Pros: Magnificent Cathedral; pilgrimage site for wine lovers Cons: In the middle of nowhere In a nutshell: Must-stop if you’re going from Paris to Strasbourg