In the historic French region of Champagne, Reims Cathedral stood majestically throughout much of the 13th century.. Today, it is the most recognizable icon of this city. In times of the French Revolution, its purely monumental character was consolidated with which it razed the nearby constructions that at one time dared to detract from its prominence.
The foundations of the cathedral fever were laid centuries before by the Romanesque, although this is more limited in the territory and much less colossal. Gothic art, as a legacy of the previous one, lays its foundations in a process of growth, economic prosperity and urban planning that began in Europe throughout the 13th century.
Linked to the cities or ‘burgs’, a new social class was glorified, the bourgeoisie. This had a power preceded by commercial enrichment thanks to the consolidation of Christianity in much of Western Europe.
The bourgeoisie undoubtedly influenced urban planning, since it facilitated the expansion of culture and knowledge, until then in the hands of the rural monastic orders. Schools and universities were built who became de factoin great centers of cultural transmission.
Gothic originated in France, specifically in Paris. From there it spread to all the ends of Europe, from Ghent to Burgos or from Cambridge to Florence.
The Gothic fullness of Reims Cathedral
Generally, historians and art specialists mark the 13th and 14th centuries as the period of maximum plenitude of Gothic architecture. The colossal cathedrals became the paradigmatic symbol of architecture and it was France that showed its most legitimate expression.
For it, New construction elements were used such as the pointed arch and the ribbed vault, which played a decisive role in offering greater height to the temples. The height, in turn, was compensated with a complex system of supporting elements such as flying buttresses and buttresses.
The third and no less important element was light.. We talk about the light and color provided by the large stained glass that were applied in rose windows and windows distributed on the four sides of the cathedral.
If we briefly review the technical sheet of the Reims cathedral, we see that stands on a Latin cross plan in which the transept barely protrudes a few meters from the longitudinal arm, following the model of other cathedrals such as Amiens or Paris.
The temple has three naves covered with simple ogival vaults., measures about 138 meters long and 30 wide. Its towers, 86 meters high, can be seen from afar. The verticality that characterizes the structure of this temple is reinforced by its slender pillars and by the incorporation of pinnacles and gables, as well as by the presence of other bays and openings that are distributed throughout the façade.
Precisely, the facade has three large porticoes whose archivolts are ornamented with statues. The central one, dedicated to Santa María, like the cathedral, is crowned by a rose window that appears within a pointed arch and gives the façade an extremely genuine appearance. Above the rose window stands the ‘gallery of the kings’ and, above it, two imposing towers decorated with tracery.
The facades of the transept are also decorated with sculptures. The north one incorporates statues of the bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus. Instead, the southern side has a magnificent rose window with the prophets and the apostles.
Functionality and meaning of Reims Cathedral
Reims Cathedral has played a very significant role throughout history. Here the French kings were crowned during the Old Regime. Perhaps that is its most realistic facet, but if we test the moral side, we will realize that its sculptural ensemble constitutes an authentic ‘Bible in stone’ for its visitors.
the annunciation either The Visitation are some of the various groups that interact in harmony with the architectural base of this majestic temple. However, the temple has gone through all kinds of calamities, fires, bombings and reconstructions that throughout its history have not been able to undermine its beauty.
Its function, content and meaning contributed to the fact that in 1991 UNESCO declared this temple as a World Heritage Site. And if its external appearance is fabulous, its interior is no less and is also worth discovering.