On our way back to Senlis from Germany, we traveled through Luxembourg and Belgium. We saw lovely countryside, quaint villages, and old churches, much as you might expect. We didn’t stop anywhere until we got to Reims, France, so technically I probably can’t count Belgium. (Dinner in Luxembourg definitely counts.)
Reims French: [ʁɛ̃s] (listen) is chock-full of history from the founding Gauls to the conquering Romans (naturally) to the Gothic cathedral, and on to World War I and World War II. Wikipedia does a good job of condensing the highlights here.
Notre-Dame de Reims AKA Reims Cathedral
The focal point in the oldest part of the city is the cathedral. While it is smaller than the York cathedral, it is still quite large and I would say, even more ornate. Sadly, time, pollution, and both WWI and WWII damaged many of the carvings and windows. Some of the lower carvings of saints are missing limbs and heads – this evidently happened during the French Revolution. Many of the original statues and artifacts have been removed from the cathedral for conservation purposes and are displayed at the Palace of Tau. So today at the cathedral you will see a mixture of copies, damaged stonework, and preserved originals.
The cathedral has been undergoing renovation work periodically since 1919.
Historical note: Thirty-one kings of France have been crowned in Reims at the cathedral or it’s fore-runners. Charles VII was crowned king here during the Hundred Years’ War, thanks in part to Joan of Arc, and there’s a special chapel dedicated to her.
The cathedral is definitely worth a visit. Check opening times, but we went on a Sunday afternoon and it was open and free to the public.
Other Cool Stuff
There are many other buildings and museums that I’d love to explore, but we were only stopping for lunch. I would love to go back and see more. Here’s the statue of Lous XV from the Place Royale square. The original marble portion of the statue depicting Louis was destroyed in 1792 (hmm, right around the time people were hacking heads off the statues at the cathedral) and it was replaced by a bronze copy in 1818. Details here.
Did I Mention Champagne?
Reims is also the largest city in the Champagne region. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to sample any bubbly during out stop, but I hope we get to go back another day.