Notre-Dame de Reims is the Reims Cathedral, where the kings of France used to be crowned. It replaced an older church (burned in 1211) built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in A.D. 496. The cathedral was completed by the end of the 13th century, with the exception of the west front (illustration, right). That portion was erected in the 14th century after 13th century designsâ€” the nave having in the meantime been lengthened to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. The towers, 267 ft. high, were originally designed to rise 394 ft.; that on the south contains two great bells, one of which, named â€œCharlotteâ€ by the Cardinal de Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 11 tons.
In 1875 the French National Assembly voted Â£80,000 for repairs of the faÃ§ade and balustrades. This faÃ§ade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the most perfect masterpieces of the Middle Ages.
The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin, is surmounted by a rose-window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary. The â€œgallery of the kingsâ€ above has the baptism of Clovis in the centre and statues of his successors.
The faÃ§ades of the transepts are also decorated with sculpturesâ€”that on the north with statues of the principal bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu) while that on the south side has a beautiful rose-window with the prophets and apostles. In 1481 fire destroyed the roof and the spires: of the four towers which flanked the transepts nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant bell-tower in timber and lead, 59 ft. high, reconstructed in the 15th century.
The interior of the cathedral is 455 ft. long, 98 ft. wide in the nave, and 125 ft. high in the centre, and comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has a profusion of statues similar to those of the outside, and stained glass of the 13th century. The rose-window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.
The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under Francois I, representing the life of the Virgin. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Several paintings, by Tintoretto, Nicolas Poussin, and others, and the carved woodwork and the railings of the choir, also deserve mention. Famous Russian painter Marc Chagall’s work can also be admired in the cathedral through the stained glasses later installed at the back, and on the side of the cathedral.
The treasury contains the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken at the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.
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
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