Notre Dame of Reims, Exterior

It was sort of a cloudy, gloomy day when I visited Reims Cathedral, which is also dedicated to Notre Dame, Our Lady the Virgin Mary. But it is such a striking edifice that it is hard not to enjoy the beauty of the church regardless of the weather. One of the largest cathedrals in the world, it suffered extensive damage in World War I from German shelling (read about Annie Lemp Konta’s bizarre apologia concerning that and other incidents).

As so many other monuments in France, it was also the recipient of the work of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, but most his plans here were not completed, including soaring pointed spires on the belltowers.

The front façade with its twin towers is massive and imposing.

Apparently there are well over two thousand sculptures adorning the exterior.

Begun in 1211, the cathedral replaces the previous one destroyed by fire. It was largely completed in eighty years, which is actually a pretty good time frame for a church of this size in the Medieval era.

The front rose windows and three portals are massive, and ornamented with dozen of high relief sculptures. Yes, they probably would have been painted originally.

Frequent subject matters of the sculptures are popular saints and also scenes of the Last Judgment, with Christ presiding over the keystone.

The left portal below features a Crucifixion scene.

Some of the sculpture is on display in the Palace de Tau, the archbishop’s residence which is now a museum to the south of the cathedral. You can see traces of the polychrome paint scheme, particularly in the hair of the head below.

The south elevation gives a clear view of the flying buttresses which provide the structural support for the vaulting and large stained glass windows.

The flying buttresses are particularly elegant here in Reims.

Sculptures in the round, meaning freestanding statures, adorn the piers, and they appear to be angels. The pinnacles on the piers are there to add weight and strength to the building.

Back around on the north side of the cathedral we see what look like kings on the highest reaches of the northwestern tower.

The towers are particularly elegant and are among my favorite in the Gothic style.

The north side looks largely the same with its wonderful flying buttresses.

The transepts show the truncated bases of spires that were never completed.

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