Reims – City of Kings

During my first encounter with Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims I stumbled upon the spot where Clovis, King of the Franks, was baptized a Christian. His baptism made Reims the birthplace of Christianity in France and the place where future kings would be crowned. That precedent led Joan of Arc to fight for the coronation of Charles VII to be performed at Reims in the cathedral.

Jeanne d’Arc’s legacy is still felt here through the equestrian statue outside the cathedral and the chapel dedicated to her inside. Her effigy, with eyes closed, makes her presence seem to almost haunt the church. While this young woman’s story of remarkable faith and obedience is embedded in the psyche of France, she deserves a place in the hearts of all Christians regardless of nationality.

Reims Cathedral has between 2,000 and 3,000 statues. The most famous of them is the Smiling Angel. After the cathedral was bombarded during World War I the damaged statue became a symbol of “French culture destroyed by German barbarity.” Preserved by the abbot Thinot, it later was restored and placed back on the cathedral and remains a beloved figure of Reims today.

Because of the wars most of the original glass in the cathedral was destroyed. 20th century artist Marc Chagall designed the glass of the central chapel of the ambulatory. It is quite beautiful. My sister-in-law, an accomplished artist, recognized his style instantly when she saw our photos. Much of the original glass on the west façade does remain, but the windows in the portals are more modern. Below the rose window is a gallery of kings in glass, fitting for the cathedral of coronations.

Windows designed by Marc Chagall.

Just walking in and around the cathedral was captivating. If this was the only stop on our pilgrimage we could have easily busied ourselves learning about the statuary and architecture and been quite happy. But, amazingly, we were only scratching the surface.

Notice the bottom right sculptures: Melchizedek and Abraham
“The hell-bound figures from the Last Judgment sculpture here are unusually calm; interestingly, among the damned, we find a king and a bishop, a reminder that authority on earth is not a free pass into heaven.” Professor William R. Cook

Index of blog posts for our Cathedral Pilgrimage