Our Lady of Reims and Paris

September 4, 2015

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Previously, we looked at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres.

Now, I present two more masterpieces of thirteenth century Gothic architecture: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. The cathedrals of Chartres, Paris, and Reims — along with Amiens Cathedral and the Royal Basilica of Saint Denis — are all located in northern France, the birthplace of Gothic architecture.

At the end, I briefly recount my experience at a Sunday morning mass at Notre-Dame de Paris.

All photographs are mine.

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Reims Cathedral south ailse

Reims Cathedral, south aisle

What I loved about the aisle windows at Reims is the amount of light they allow. By contrast, Notre-Dame de Paris is incredibly dark, which has its own aesthetic value of course. As you walk into Reims, the warmth of the space is palpable, unique among the cathedrals we visited. The more common iconographic and multi-color windows are along the ambulatory (i.e., behind the altar), as well as the rose windows in the West, North, and South.

Reims Cathedral, ribbed vaults

Reims Cathedral, ribbed vaults

The above photograph allows you to see the brilliance of light that illumines each aisle, in contrast to the chancel and ambulatory.

Reims Cathedral, Clovis baptism

Reims Cathedral, commemoration of Clovis’ baptism

In the nave, you can see here a commemoration of Clovis’ baptism. ICI SAINT REMI BAPTISA CLOVIS ROI DES FRANCS, which translates as, “Here Saint Remi baptized Clovis, King of the Franks.” Clovis was baptized by Saint Remigius at Reims, which effectively converted all of the Frankish tribes to Christianity. The French (etymologically derived from “Franks” by way of the Latin, Francia, for the Frankish people) owe their Christian heritage to this moment, historically speaking.

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Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris

Oh yes, the most famous cathedral in the world: Notre-Dame de Paris! The western facade is breathtaking, and its location on the Île de la Cité in the middle of the river is perfect. There are so many fabulous angles from which you can view this cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris, south rose window and aisle

South rose window and aisle

Since the interior of Notre-Dame de Paris is so dark, I drastically increased the ISO and aperture value on my camera in this photograph, allowing you to see with greater clarity. Trust me, it is far darker, even on a bright and sunny day.

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris, chapel behind the chancel

Marian chapel behind the chancel

This is more representative of the darkness of the interior. This darkness does, however, draw attention to the brilliance of the stained glass, as you can see in this photograph of a Marian chapel along the ambulatory.

My brother and I attended the 10am “Gregorian mass” on Sunday morning, which was very well-attended. I loved it! During the Gregorian mass, several parts of the service are done in Latin, including the Creed and Our Father. I am terrible at pronouncing French quickly, but Latin is a breeze! And it was great to hear everyone speak this “universal” language. There was a young French woman, probably 16 or 17 years old, next to me, and she was a pro! I was super-impressed. She even kneeled on the concrete floor during the consecration, which is not something that many were willing to do, given the lack of kneelers.

Also, the organ is something to experience! The organist was playing Bach or perhaps theme music from Castlevania — either way, it was great!

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Images: All of the photographs are mine. You are free to download for private use. If you want to republish, my permission is required.

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