If you’ve been to Notre Dame in Paris or, indeed, to any other Gothic-style cathedral in Europe, you know how absolutely breathtaking they can be. Visiting the Reims cathedral is a wonderful reminder of this.
And it makes sense. We’re impressed when we walk up to a cathedral because of the workmanship or the size or the historical beauty. But if you think about the height (max of 2 floors) and complexity (not much) of most residential and working structures built in the Middle Ages, it’s easy to see how utterly, jaw-droppingly awe-inspiring a cathedral must have been to pilgrims and nearby residents at the time. And a cathedral with a “proven” history of a connection with God? Whew. Understanding all this makes visiting places like this even more poignant.
Reims is no different. You can see the cathedral spires from most points in the city, and it’s worthwhile to stop and explore this place’s history and timeless beauty.
Boyfriend Perspective: Pro tip – when visiting a large cathedral in the winter, I recommend adding an additional layer to your clothing, like something you may wear to the Arctic. While you may be out of the gusty wind, the cathedral itself will suck the heat right out of you into the stone. Brrrrrrr.
History of the Reims Cathedral
As with most old churches, this cathedral has been built and rebuilt on this site for one main reason: religious history.
In the case of Reims, here stood the basilica where Clovis, first king of France, was baptized by Saint Remi (the beautiful basilica bearing his name, and his remains, is just down the road) in 496CE. Legend has it that Heaven, itself, provided the oil for the baptism, in an ampule delivered by a dove. That ampule still sits next door to the cathedral, at the Palace of Tau.
Though it grew and changed over time, thanks to its holy history, this remained the place of coronation for every French king, up until the fall of the monarchy.
Today, the cathedral is one of the best-known in France – and the world – and continues to draw millions of visitors per year. Happily, we got to be two of them!
Boyfriend Perspective: Holy Oil from God…delivered by a dove….OK…. (ಠ_ಠ)
Reasons to visit Notre Dame de Reims
- TWO THOUSAND STATUES. Y’all. Notre Dame in Paris is stunning, and its facade holds about a thousand statues of various creatures and holy figures. Notre Dame de Reims has twice that many on her facade, which is even more incredible when you consider how much of the cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries. You can even see remnants of statues that perhaps were irreparable, stored in a room at the Palace of Tau, next door. Photos just don’t do this place justice.
- Chagall stained glass windows. Personally, this was the high point of our visit to the cathedral. Chagall’s work is always stunning and emotive to experience but, cheesy as it sounds, I was absolutely transfixed by these windows, and took a nice, long time to bask in their blue beauty.
Boyfriend Perspective: The stained glass was impressive in its intricacy, but what I want to know is how many times the guy counting statues had to restart because he was interrupted, distracted, or lost count. “1,937, 1,938, Hi Jim, 1,939, wait was that 1,4937 again….@#$%.
- One of the most ornate rose windows we’ve ever seen. One of the best parts about walking into a cathedral is heading down the center aisle, enjoying the beauty around you, and then slowly turning around to catch sight of the rose window, gleaming over the front doors. Guys, that’s always nice, but this one is a special treat. All blues and reds, it’s rich and absolutely stunning.
- Knoebel stained glass windows. While they’re not necessarily our taste (like most pieces of abstract art), these 6 windows are so artfully done, and add warmth and drama to an already gorgeous place. They surround a few small chapels, bathing their objects of devotion in reds and golds.
- Effigy of Joan of Arc. Because Reims was liberated from an English siege by Joan of Arc, a statue in her image stands in one of the wings of the cathedral. You can light a candle and pray to her, or simply admire her and her incredible contributions to French history.
- Rêve de Couleurs light show! We wish, wish, wish we had been in Reims during the right season to see this famous show. With vibrant, large-scale projections, dancing, and music, this show serves as a treat for all the senses, and runs during the summer and also during Reims’s Christmas market season.
Have you ever been to Notre Dame de Reims? What was your experience like?
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