Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame of Reims Cathedral, Place du Cardinal Luçon, Reims, Francija

Website of the Sanctuary

03 26 47 55 34

Every day: from 7.30 to 19.30.

Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral, the Gothic art masterpiece where the kings of France were crowned, was one of the first monuments registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every year it welcomes one million visitors. See other Catholic sites in France.

History and architecture

Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral was the site of the coronation of French kings. It was the centre of an important “cathedral complex” and the representation of Heavenly Jerusalem for the people of the Middle Ages.

It was also the symbolic centre of the Archbishop’s power, as Primate over the bishops of several dioceses in Northern France.

Erected between 1211 and 1516, in accordance with an architectural program of immense artistic richness, the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral survives as one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic art. See Top 15 Catholic shrines in the world.


Booking.com

Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral in Numbers

Length

  • Exterior: 149 metres (489 feet)
  • Interior: 139 metres (456 feet)
  • Nave: 115 metres (377 feet)

Width

  • Exterior: 34 metres (112 feet)
  • Interior: 30 metres (98 feet)
  • Exterior at transepts: 61 metres (200 feet)
  • Interior at transepts: 49.5 metres (162 feet)
  • Nave (axis of pillars): 14.65 meters (48 feet)
  • (side aisles): 7.75 metres (25 feet)

Height

  • Towers: 83 metres (272 feet)
  • From the bell tower to the angel (chevet): 87 metres (285 feet)
  • From the vault to the grand nave under the keystone: 38 metres (125 feet)
  • Vaults of side aisles: 16.4 meters (54 feet)

For comparison, vault heights of the following cathedrals:

  • Noyon (begun after 1131): 22 metres (72 feet)
  • Senlis (begun in 1153): 24 metres (79 feet)
  • Laon (begun in 1155): 25 metres (82 feet)
  • Paris (begun in 1163): 35 metres (115 feet)
  • Strasbourg (begun after 1176): 31 metres (102 feet)
  • Bourges (begun in 1192): 38 metres (125 feet)
  • Chartres (begun in 1194): 37 metres (121 feet)
  • Reims (begun in 1211): 38 metres (125 feet)
  • Amiens (begun in 1220): 42.5 metres (139 meters)
  • Beauvais (begun in 1225): 48 metres (157 feet)

Area

  • Exterior: 6,650m2
  • Interior: 4,800m2

Abbot Tourneur (1861) counted over 2,300 statues on the monument:

statue-columns, voussoirs, chambranle figurines, statues of the gablets, tabernacles, figurative reliefs (interior and exterior), heads at the base of arches, (highest parts), monumental kings, consoles, the ensemble of which make Notre Dame of Reims the cathedral with the richest collection of sculpture.

The Coronation Cathedral – Origin and history of the coronation of the Kings of France

With the baptism of Clovis by Saint Remi in 498-499, the precedent of royal unction was established in the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral. However, the first King to be coronated, Pippin the Short, was crowned at Soissons in 751, then again at Saint Denis in 754 by Pope Stephen II.

Reims, Coronation city since the 11th century

Louis I (the Pious) was the first King to be coronated in the Cathedral of Reims, in 816, and a diplôme from the Emperor to the Archbishop Ebbo made explicit reference to the baptism of Clovis as the reason for this decision.

Nevertheless, the choice of Louis the Pious was not immediately followed by his Carolingian or Robertian successors, and it was only in the early 11th century that the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral finally imposed itself as the Coronation Cathedral.

From then on, with the exceptions of Louis VI (Orleans) and Henri VI (Chartres), all the kings of France who were coronated by royal unction (Louis XVIII and Louis-Philippe were not) were crowned in Reims by the Archbishop, or another prelate if the metropolitan seat was vacant.

Entrance of Louis XVI in Reims – The King is dead. Long live the King!

The coronation by royal, or divine, unction proceeded from the teachings of Saint Paul, who claimed that there was no authority except from God (“Non est enim potestas nisi a Deo, quæ autem sunt, a Deo ordinatæ sunt”, Rom. 13, 1).

Jurists and theorists of absolutism, especially during the Ancient Regime, didn’t always agree with this. For some, the coronation did not make the King, he became King at the instant of the death of his predecessor, according the famous proclamation of the Chancellor of France, “The King is dead. Long live the King!”

For others, coronation conferred legitimacy to the King. This was the belief that impelled Joan of Arc to conduct Charles VII to Reims to be coronated in 1429, even though, entrenched at Bourges, he had been reigning as King for seven years.

STAINED GLASS WINDOWS

The Champagne-Ardenne region possesses an extremely rich heritage of ancient glass production. Though the Cathedral has lost a portion of its original stained glass, it still holds some of the most remarkable Gothic examples of the art. To preserve this heritage, the State supports both the restoration of existing stained glass and the creation of new works.

Thus, certain medieval windows have regained their original splendor while, at the same time, renowned artists such as Marc Chagall and Brigitte Simon have added their artistry to Notre Dame. These contemporary creations were made possible thanks to fundraising operations.

 

Photo credits by:

  • By Tijmen Stam (User:IIVQ) – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1663849
  • By Vassil – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1802530
  • By Louis-Kenzo Cahier – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49317467
  • By Louis-Kenzo Cahier – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49317470
  • By Mattana – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3464851
  • By Eric Pouhier – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=642181
  • By Eric Pouhier – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=642181
  • By Tango7174 – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6628335
  • By Peter Lucas – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19216632
  • By Peter Lucas – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19216632

Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims, the Gothic art masterpiece where the kings of France were crowned, was one of the first monuments registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every year it welcomes one million visitors

MEDIEVAL STAINED GLASS WINDOWS
Very many of the medieval stained glass windows of the Cathedral of Reims have disappeared. Their history reminds us just how fragile are the few that, through great care and effort, remain to us today.

In addition to the damage wrought by time and weather, the windows suffered from sometimes deliberate destruction, and the hazards of war.

As early as the sixteenth century, the windows were the object of occasional restoration and, after the First World War, certain of the high windows were patiently reconstituted.

Today, the preserved windows form a beautifully coherent ensemble, and contribute to make this edifice a major reference in stained glass. The audacious design of the fine network of stone in the western rose window constitutes one of the most beautiful achievements of Gothic art, and the high windows of the choir are, by their iconographic narrative, an impressive demonstration of the power of the Church of Reims.

The windows of Marc Chagall

In 1974, Marc Chagall (1887-1985) created, with the collaboration of the Jacques Simon Workshop, three stained glass windows for the axial chapel of the Cathedral.

The realisation of these windows, which took six years (1968-1974), was made possible thanks to the donations of the Committee of Builders of Champagne-Ardenne, and a membership drive conducted by the Friends of the Reims Cathedral. The total cost was 300,000 Francs (€47,000).

Origins of the project

From 1957, Marc Chagall regularly came to Reims, where he was working in collaboration with the Jacques Simon Workshop on the realisation of a certain number of important projects in France and internationally (the Metz Cathedral, the United Nations in New York, the church of Tudeley, the Rockefeller chapel (Union Church) at Pocantico Hills, etc.).

In November 1968, the Committee of Builders of Champagne-Ardenne, an association comprising a number of businesses, construction material dealers, contractors and architects of the region, decided to commission Marc Chagall to create stained glass windows in the Reims Cathedral to replace those made in the nineteenth century by Coffetier and Steinheil.

In 1971, Jacques Duhamel, then Minister of Culture, officially decided the placement for the windows to be in the axial chapel.

The Windows of Brigitte Simon

Born in Reims in 1926, Brigitte Simon first worked with her father, the master stained glass artist Jacques Simon, before moving to Paris where she met, and in 1949, married, Charles Marq.

In 1961, she created her first stained glass window for the Reims Cathedral, followed by works for the nave of Saint Philibert of Tournus, the collegial Notre Dame of Vitry-le-Francois and the cathedral of Nantes.

Between 1971 and 1981, she again created several windows for the Reims Cathedral, in the north and south arms of the transept.

ARCHITECTURE
With its Radiant Gothic façade of unequalled dimensions, its interior characterized by soaring vertical heights, the richness of its sculpture and the technical quality of its construction, the Cathedral of Reims remains one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic art.

Probably begun in 1211, its realisation continued through three centuries, but rests incomplete: spires that were initially planned for the tops of the towers were never built.

Construction Chronology: Three centuries of building

The first religious structure to be built on the Cathedral site was in the very beginning of the 5th century.

It was a modest edifice which was later rebuilt and enlarged, first during the Carolingian epoch (816-862), and then in the mid 12th century, in early Gothic style. It was damaged by fire in 1210, and the structures were completely razed shortly after.

The chevet of the Cathedral of Reims built in the second quarter of the 13th century

1211-1241: The building of the choir

It is generally believed, though still subject to some debate among historians, that construction on the existing monument began in 1211. The laying of the first stone by Archbishop Aubry de Humbert took place on May 6th of that year, one year to the day after the fire. The first phase was the building of the choir, the transept and the last spans of the nave, which were consecrated in 1241.

1250-1300: Construction of the façade

Work on the western façade continued throughout the second half of the 13th century.

Studying the style of the façade (archival sources are missing), allows us to estimate that the portal areas were finished about 1270, and the upper part of the rose window at the end of the 13th century.

The central areas and those south of the Gallery of Kings were constructed above the rose window at the beginning of the 14th century.

A cathedral unfinished

Afterwards the work slowed. The north part of the Gallery of Kings and the two towers date from the 15th century. When Joan of Arc and Charles VII arrived for his coronation in 1429, the towers did not yet exist. These façade and transept towers were initially to be topped by spires, but a fierce fire, which destroyed the roof’s entire framework in 1481, made their realisation, and indeed the completion of the Cathedral, impossible. The bases for the spires were still partially visible in the 19th century.

SCULPTURE

If Gothic art attains, in the Cathedral of Reims, one of its most perfect expressions, it is thanks to both the exceptional use of new architectural techniques of the 13th century, and the harmonious union of architecture and sculpture.

The richness of this sculptural ensemble is renowned. Never before had artists so succeeded in bringing stone to life. The celebrated “Ange au Sourire” (Smiling Angel), the Saint Joseph, and the Servant, have become characters in their own right.

Although the statues seem to present a particularly unified expression of medieval thought, it is nevertheless not easy to comprehend what message was intended from the statuary of such a complex monument, or to distinguish a unique style in an edifice erected over a period of three centuries.

Posted in Europe and France