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March 11, 2009
From journal A Few Days Visiting Alsace Lorraine
April 27, 2005
From journal 48 Hours in Reims
Cinnaminson, New Jersey
February 14, 2004
Reims is well known for its cathedral. This was why I made the trip – I wanted to see the place where French kings were crowned for centuries. You cannot see the cathedral from the road when you are approaching the city, but when you turn to the hotels, and drive along the embankment to the first light and turn right there on rue Chantecler, all of a sudden, there it is - what you came here to see – the Reims cathedral – straight in front of you. The cathedral's west façade is what you see first, staring at you in all its grandeur, and if you first see it at night, the cathedral looks really surreal – like something out of a fairy tale. But in the morning, in the rays of sun, it looks very real and amazingly tall, a real masterpiece of the 13th-century Gothic.
There is partial scaffolding on the right side of the entrance. However, when looking at it from the beginning of rue Chantecler, you can only see the immense proportions of the cathedral. Yellow stone, Gothic rose windows above the entrance, smiling angel among the others are welcoming you in. Under the restoration are the figures of Abraham, Moses and prophets, as well as Christ and the evangelists. The cathedral has very tall naives. Thirteenth-century Gothic stained-glass windows have been severely damaged during WWI, and a lot of new stained glass is unremarkable since it was put in the 20th century. However, the remaining stained glass is well preserved. Two large rose windows above the entrance are a vision in the evening light, with bright blue, red, green and yellow colors creating a kaleidoscope of images. Stained-glass windows above the choir show various saints. There are two organs: one looks like a Gothic mini-church ending in spires of dark wood, the other - a large organ on the left of the altar - is a great work of art with angels on top right below another rose window. Across from it are more 19th-century stained-glass windows. You can see also modern stained-glass windows with images that look like icebergs. The jewel of the modern stained-glass windows is behind the altar – it is by Marc Chagall, painted in 1971. There are three windows in that chapel – the central window shows Abraham and Christ, principal events in the life of Abraham, line of descent from Abraham to Christ, Christ on the cross, and accomplishing act of salvation. The left window shows expectations of Old Testament, rose windows show prophets denouncing birth of Christ. The right window shows momentous occasions in the lives of kings of France in coronation cathedral.
From journal Sightseeing in Reims
March 1, 2002
Greatly damaged in World War War I it has been restored to its former glory, though it took all of twenty years. Luckily, it was virtually untouched during the Second World War. Many of the statues that were removed from the facade because of damage are now housed next door in the Palais du Tau ,the former Archbishops Palace, which is now a museum.
The history is tangible as you walk through this Cathedral. It surrounds you at every turn. Yet the present is very much here as well. As you turn and face the entrance of the Cathedral you are wowed by the wonderful rose windows, one above the other but as you walk behind the altar the Marc Chagall windows are almost as beautiful in their stark simplicity.
Its a beautiful combination of yesterday and today harmoniously blended into an impressive whole.
Take time to really enjoy the wonderful statues on the facade. Try to find your favorite saint or the famous smiling angel. See if you can identify the Annunciation grouping or the Last Judgment.
After a visit to the Cathedral, a stop at the Palais du Tau is a natural conclusion. Here there are rooms with the remains of the destroyed statues from the Cathedral as well as the piece of the True Cross said to have belonged to Charlemagne. Another of their treasures is the coronation robes of King Charles X and the Dauphin.
The Cathedral has a gift shop with religious items and guide books. The Palais du Tau has a much more extensive shop with lots of interesting items. I have to admit I spent way too much time there buying toys for my grandchildren.
Both of these sites can be easily visited in a morning. The Cathedral is free, the Palais was 5 Euros I think. (Joe paid for all of us to get in while we were browsing in the gift shop which explains why I'm not sure about the price.)
From journal Chantilly Lace and a Pretty Face
June 23, 2001
My photograph of the stained glass window is a bit blurry because it was taken without flash inside, but it shows the vivid colors of even one of the minor windows. This window is on the western facade to the side of the rose windows.
From journal A Taste of the Champagne Region