Notre-Dame de Reims

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Façade of the Notre-Dame de Reims

The Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Rheims) is the Cathedral of Reims, where the kings of France were once crowned. It replaces an older church, which was destroyed by a fire in 1211 and built on the site of the basilica, where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 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 designs—the nave having in the meantime been lengthened to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. The towers, which are 81 m (approx. 267 feet) tall, were originally designed to rise 120 m (approx. 394 feet). The southern tower contains two great bells, one of which, named “Charlotte” by the Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, and weighs more than 10,000 kg (approx. 11 tons).

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose-window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary. The “gallery of the kings” above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre and statues of his successors.

The façades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures—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. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant bell-tower of timber and lead that is 18 m (approx. 59 feet) tall and was reconstructed in the 15th century.

's drawing of a flying buttress at Reims, ca. AD 1320–1335  ()
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Villard de Honnecourt's drawing of a flying buttress at Reims, ca. AD 1320–1335 (Bibliotheque Nationale)

The interior of the cathedral is 138.75 m (approx. 455 ft) long, 30 m (approx. 98 feet) wide in the nave, and 38 m (approx. 125 feet) high in the centre. It 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.

See also

External link

fr:Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims nl:Kathedraal van Reims sv:Katedralen i Reims

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