Reims Cathedral - History and Facts | History Hit

Reims Cathedral

Reims, Grand Est, France

Reims Cathedral was the site of France’s royal coronations and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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About Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral (Cathédrale de Reims), also known as the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in France’s Champagne region was the site of every royal coronation since the medieval period. The final monarch to be crowned there was Charles X in 1825.

Reims Cathedral history

A cathedral has stood on the site on which Reims Cathedral sits since 401 AD. The current cathedral was constructed from 1211, after the previous one on the site had burned down and was almost entirely completed by the end of the thirteenth century, with its Western façade added in the fourteenth century.

Unfortunately, the cathedral’s roof caught fire in 1481 during renovation work. Thanks to financial backing from the royal crown, the work was able to continue. As a way to show gratitude, it was then decided to decorate the roof with statuettes of the “fleur de Lys,” a flower symbolic of the crown, which were later removed during the French Revolution when an anti-royalty campaign was put into motion.

Much of Reims Cathedral has had to be restored since its construction, including its windows, damaged during the French Revolution and later its stonework, which suffered during First World War bombings. Nevertheless, from the thirteenth century Great Rose Window to the Gallery of the Kings, Reims Cathedral is imbued with beauty and with history.

Reims Cathedral today

Reims Cathedral is vast, at 460 feet in length and a nave rising 125 feet with intricately designed stonework and looming towers. The Cathedral is especially known for the mind-blowing number of statues that festoon its walls, 2,303! In fact, it’s the world’s only religious edifice that contains the largest number of statues, one of which is particularly famous; the “Ange au sourire” (The Smiling Angel), emblem of Reims.

A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the cathedral measures 149 meters in length and 87 meters in height (including bell tower), and is built in the shape of a Latin cross. Four chapels surround the nave.

In fact, due to its incredible architecture, Reims Cathedral has been hailed by UNESCO as “one of the masterpieces of Gothic art” and has been listed as a World Heritage historic site since 1991.

Note that visitors are supposed to remain silent when in the Cathedral.

Getting to Reims Cathedral

The address of Reims Cathedral is Place du Cardinal Luçon, 51100 Reims, France. The Cathedral is open all the time and admission is free.

Gare de Reims is the closest train station to the cathedral, roughly a 15 minute walk, or 7 minute drive away.

If you are travelling by car from Paris to Reims Cathedral, take the A4 and exit at junction 25.

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