I was so happy to be back to Reims when travelling with the Champagne Bureau UK! As our trip was so full with different experiences, I’ve decided to write a few different posts: including this one and a trip to Champagne. Let’s explore the history of Reims from the times when it carried a name Durocortorum to becoming an unofficial capital of Champagne-Ardenne region today!
I was deeply impressed by it upon my first visit – and I’m pretty sure it’s obvious why. In the morning light it looked even more impressive while the air gently turns peach and the gold with the rising sun. All coronation ceremonies of French kings from 898 onwards took place in here. That’s why there is a line of royal statues located on its facade – it’s called a Kings gallery.
Cathedral is heavily decorated with different figures – there are over 2300 statues on its walls in total, and apart from kings you can spot multiply Biblical characters and gargoyles. Visiting the cathedral at dawn has another bonus – you can quietly explore its interiors. The recently renovated Rose and stained glass by Marc Chagall and Imi Knoebel are the real jewels.
You can also discover the tragic history of this place: Reims Cathedral was severely damaged as a result of the First and Second World Wars. Thankfully, it’s regaining its initial glory! Interesting fact: did you know that Reims Notre Dame Cathedral is bigger than the Paris Notre Dame one?
The Palace of Tau
Besides the Cathedral you can find the Palace of Tau – just walk out of Cathedral. Although the building was modified on numerous occasions, its original form resembled the shape of T letter – and in Greek T letter is called ‘tau’. Now it’s a museum that hosts precious objects and treasures from the Cathedral but in its days of glory it served as the Archbishop of Reims’ palace and as a royal residence for future kings before their coronations. Unfortunately, this place has been under reconstruction for years now.
The Abbey of Saint – Remi
Another unmissable spot in Reims is the old Saint Remi’s Abbey. Its basilica (former abbey church)’ façade as well as its interiors are really splendid! This place is famous for containing the relics of Saint Remi, the bishop who baptised Clovis, the first King of the Franks, in 496 AD. Make sure you pop into the Saint Remi Museum as well.
Interesting: All three places mentioned above – the Cathedral, the Palace of Tau and the old Saint Remi Abbey – were all included into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1991. Besides that, the Champagne landscapes were also listed by Unesco as a World heritage site in 2015.Pretty impressive for one city, isn’t it?
If you have plenty of time in Reims, the Museum of Fine Arts must be included into you to-visit list because its collection is impressive! Delacroix, Renoir, Monet and many other famous artists are waiting for you! Another museum with the unique collection of Albrecht Dürer’s pieces is the Museum Le Vergeur.
Place Royale reminds me of Paris. It’s one of the most gorgeous locations in Reims and a fine example of the 18th century architecture – and of course you can spot the Cathedral as well! In the middle there is a monument dedicated to Louis XV created by the famous French sculptor Jean – Baptiste Pigalle.
The Hôtel de ville
The Hôtel de ville is another gorgeous place with a statue of Louis XIII on its facade. During its long history since 1627 it used to play different roles including being used as a library and a museum, but now it serves as Mairie of Reims. At the moment there are a number of reconstruction works happening around but they cannot overshadow the beauty of this building.
Place Drouot – d’Erlon
Place Drouot – d’Erlon is a nice pedestrian square framed with cafes and shops. It was named after Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d’Erlon who was born in Reims. Although he was raised in the family of carpenters, he started his military career in 1782 as a soldier, proceeded successfully through the Napoleonic Wars and and ended up being a Marshal of France! In the centre of Place Drouot – d’Erlon there is a 17-meters high Fountain Subé representing four rivers of Champagne region. The winged statue on its top is named La Gloire and now considered to be one of the Reims’ main symbols.
If you’re moving outside of Reims to see Epernay as we did, stay alert for huge Neo-Byzantine cupola besides the road – it’s the Sainte-Clotilde Basilica where a couple of thousand saint relics are kept.
If you’re into history, you might consider exploring the Gallo-Roman legacy side of Reims as well. Cryptoporticus at the Place du Form and the Porte de Mars, or Mars gate, are the sights for you then! They are the remains of the Gallo-Roman heritage and the times when the city founded by Remi tribe around 80 BC and conquered by Romans carried a name of Durocortorum. The Porte de Mars dates back to the 3rd century AD. It is named after the Roman God of war whose temple is located nearby.
Go and explore the charming streets of Reims without a map as well! They are very picturesque, and I’m sure I’ll fall in love with a facade or two.
In the next blog I’ll share with you my journey with Champagne Bureau UK across the Champagne region!
Hope you enjoyed my today’s blog!