Reims, a city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, lies 129 km (80 mi) east-northeast of Paris. Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire.
Reims played a prominent ceremonial role in French monarchical history as the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France. The Cathedral of Reims (damaged by the Germans during the First World War but restored since) played the same role in France as Westminster Abbey has in the United Kingdom. It housed the Holy Ampulla (Sainte Ampoule) containing the Saint Chrême (chrism), allegedly brought by a white dove (the Holy Spirit) at the baptism of Clovis in 496. It was used for the anointing, the most important part of the coronation of French kings.
Some sources regard Reims as the effective capital of the province of Champagne, given its size as by far the largest city in the region.
Christianity had become established in the city by 260, at which period Saint Sixtus of Reims founded the Reims bishopric. The consul Jovinus, an influential supporter of the new faith, repelled the Alamanni who invaded Champagne in 336; but the Vandals captured the city in 406 and slew Bishop Nicasius; and in 451 Attila the Hun put Reims to fire and sword.
In 496 — ten years after Clovis, King of the Salian Franks, won his victory at Soissons (486) — Remigius, the bishop of Reims, baptized him using the oil of the sacred phial — purportedly brought from heaven by a dove for the baptism of Clovis and subsequently preserved in the Abbey of Saint-Remi. For centuries the events at the crowning of Clovis I became a symbol used by the monarchy to claim the divine right to rule.
Meetings of Pope Stephen II (752-757) with Pepin the Short, and of Pope Leo III (795-816) with Charlemagne (died 814), took place at Reims; and here Pope Stephen IV crowned Louis the Debonnaire in 816. Louis IV gave the city and countship of Reims to the archbishop Artaldus in 940. Louis VII (reigned 1137–1180) gave the title of duke and peer to William of Champagne, archbishop from 1176 to 1202, and the archbishops of Reims took precedence over the other ecclesiastical peers of the realm.
The archbishops held the important prerogative of the consecration of the kings of France — a privilege which they exercised (except in a few cases) from the time of Philippe II Augustus (anointed 1179, reigned 1180–1223) to that of Charles X (anointed 1825). Louis VII granted the city a communal charter in 1139. The Treaty of Troyes (1420) ceded it to the English, who had made a futile attempt to take it by siege in 1360; but French patriots expelled them on the approach of Joan of Arc, who in 1429 had Charles VII consecrated in the cathedral. Louis XI cruelly suppressed a revolt at Reims, caused in 1461 by the salt tax. During the French Wars of Religion the city sided with the Catholic League (1585), but submitted to Henri IV after the battle of Ivry (1590).
In the invasions of the War of the Sixth Coalition in 1814, anti-Napoleonic allied armies captured and re-captured Reims; in 1870–1871, during the Franco-Prussian War, the victorious Germans made it the seat of a governor-general and impoverished it with heavy requisitions.
|Palace of Tau|
In August 1909 Reims hosted the first international aviation meet, the Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne. Major aviation personages such as Glenn Curtiss, Louis Blériot and Louis Paulhan participated.
Hostilities in World War I greatly damaged the city. German bombardment and a subsequent fire in 1914 did severe damage to the cathedral. The ruined cathedral became one of the central images of anti-German propaganda produced in France during the war, which presented it, along with the ruins of the Cloth Hall at Ypres and the University Library in Louvain, as evidence that German aggression targeted cultural landmarks of European civilization.
During World War II the city suffered additional damage. But in Reims, at 2:41 on the morning of 7 May 1945, General Eisenhower and the Allies received the unconditional surrender of the German Wehrmacht. General Alfred Jodl, German Chief-of-Staff, signed the surrender at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) as the representative for German President Karl Dönitz.
|One of many Champagne Vineyards around Reims|
- Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Rheims) is the Roman Catholic cathedral of Reims, where the kings of France were once crowned. It replaces an older church, destroyed by a fire in 1211, which was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had been erected on the site of the Roman baths. As the cathedral it remains the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims. Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c.400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. A major site for tourism in the Champagne region, it received half a million visitors in 2006.
- Porte Mars is an ancient Roman triumphal arch in Reims, France. It dates from the third century AD, and was the widest arch in the Roman world . The Arch is 32 metres long and 13 metres high. It was named after a nearby temple to Mars. The arch has many highly detailed carvings on its exterior and on the ceilings of its three passageways. Local folklore says that the inhabitants of Rheims built the arch in gratitude when the Romans brought major roads through their city. It served as a city gate until 1544. In 1817, the buildings around it were removed, bringing the arch into full view.
- The Palace of Tau. The archiepiscopal palace, built between 1498 and 1509, and in part rebuilt in 1675, served as the residence of the kings of France on the occasion of their coronations. The salon (salle du Tau), where the royal banquet took place, has an immense stone chimney that dates from the fifteenth century. The chapel of the archiepiscopal palace consists of two storeys, of which the upper still (as of 2009) serves as a place of worship. Both the chapel and the salle du Tau have decorative tapestries of the 17th century, known as the Perpersack tapestries, after the Flemish weaver who executed them. The palace opened to the public in 1972 as a museum containing such exhibits as statues formerly displayed by the cathedral, treasures of the cathedral from past centuries, and royal attire from coronations of French kings.
- Saint Remi Basilica, an easy one-mile walk from the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Reims, takes its name from the 5th-century Saint Remi — revered as the patron saint of the inhabitants of Reims for more than 15 centuries. The basilica almost approaches the cathedral in size. Adjacent to the basilica stands an important abbey, formerly known as the Royal Abbey of St Remi. The abbey sought to trace its heritage back to St Remi, while the present abbey building dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Saint Remi Basilica dates from the 11th, 12th, 13th and 15th centuries. Most of the construction of the church finished in the 11th century, with additions made later. The nave and transepts, Romanesque in style, date mainly from the earliest, the façade of the south transept from the latest of those periods, the choir and apse chapels from the 12th and 13th centuries. The 17th and 19th centuries saw further additions. The building suffered greatly in World War I, and the meticulous restoration work of architect Henri Deneux rebuilt it from its ruins over the following 40 years. As of 2009 it remains the seat of an active Catholic parish holding regular worship services and welcoming pilgrims. It has been classified as an historical monument since 1841 and is one of the pinnacles of the history of art and of the history of France.
- Monument to the Black Army of Reims. The original monument was erected in 1924 where the Boulevard Henry Vasnier meets the Avenue du Général Giraud. The first stone was placed by André Maginot, Minister of War on 29 October 1922. This ceremony was also addressed by Blaise Diagne, the Senegalese political leader. On July 1924 the monument was inaugurated with a Military and Sports fete presided over by Édouard Daladier, the Minister of the colonies. General Louis Archinard was the president of the committee that supervised the erection of the monument, highlighting the role of African troops of the 1st Colonial Infantry Corps in the defense of Reims from the German Army in 1918. They were particularly renowned for their tenacious defence of Fort de la Pompelle. 10,000 people attended the fete which was held immediately following the inauguration. The original monument, consisting of five figures, was a replica of a similar monument erected in Bamako, Mali in January 1924. The monument was dismantled during the German occupation in September 1940. In September 1958, on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Defence of Reims, a new monument was started. This was completed in time for a second inauguration ceremony on 6 October 1963, with Pierre Messmer, Minister of Armies, Jean Sainteny, Minister of veterans, Jacques Foccart, secretary general of the Communauté et les affaires africaines et malgaches, and General Georges Catroux, grand chancellor of the Légion d'honneur. In 2008, on the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of the defence of Reims, a major ceremony was held in remembrance of the Black Army of Reims, attended by Jean-Marie Bockel, Rama Yade and Adeline Hazan.
Saint Remi Basilica