Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Reims

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Reims

Notre-Dame de ReimsNotre-Dame de Reims is one of the world’s most famous cathedrals. It replaces an older church destroyed by a fire in 1211, built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi Bishop of Reims in AD 496. The original structure had been erected on the site of the Roman baths. As a cathedral it remains the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims. The cathedral was restored after World War I, funded largely by contributions from John D. Rockefeller. It escaped World War II relatively unharmed. Built on the site of a church that burned in 1211 it was intended as a sanctuary where French kings would be anointed. St. Rémi the Bishop of Reims baptized Clovis, the king of the Franks here in A.D. 496. All the kings of France from Louis the Pious in 815 to Charles X in 1825 were crowned here.

ONotre-Dame de Reimsn July 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly afterward beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218 suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations.

The towers 267 ft high were originally designed to rise 394 ft high. The south tower holds just two great bells one of them named “Charlotte” by Charles Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570 weighs more than 11 tons.

During the Hundred Years’ War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc allowing  Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

Notre-Dame de ReimsGerman shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles destroying in turn the bishop’s palace. Restoration work began in 1919 under the direction of Henri Deneux a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques. The cathedral was fully reopened in 1938 thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers but work has been steadily going on since.

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. In 2011, the city of Reims celebrated the cathedral’s 800th anniversary. The celebrations ran from May 6 to October 23.