I have previously written about the exterior of Nore Dame de Reims cathedral. This post takes us through the interior. As you walk through the central portal of the western facade you can look back and see the beautiful stained glass above the portal. Of great importance in the early days of Christianity in Gaul, Reims had a number of archbishops who were major figures in the Roman Catholic Church, canonized after their death. This was the case for the most famous among them, Rémi (440-533) the archbishop who baptized Clovis and instituted the Holy Anointing of Kings. The ceremony was fully established in the 12th century, and after that time almost all French sovereigns were consecrated at Reims. For the Royal Anointing, which took place in the town's cathedral, the Ampulla containing the Chrism, or holy oil, was brought from the Abbey of Saint-Rémi. Rémi, who died in 533, was buried in St Christopher's chapel, which was replaced in the 11th-12th centuries by a Benedictine abbey church. The current cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. The cathedral was rebuilt in the13th-14th century.
The architectural heritage in the Loire Valley's historic towns is notable, especially its châteaux, such as the Château d'Amboise, Château de Chambord, Château de Chinon, Château du Rivau, Château d'Ussé, Château de Villandry and Chenonceau. The châteaux, numbering more than three hundred, represent a nation of builders starting with the necessary castle fortifications in the 10th century to the splendor of those built half a millennium later. When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux here, the nobility, not wanting or even daring to be far from the seat of power, followed suit. Their presence in the lush, fertile valley began attracting the very best landscape designers and architects. The Loire Valley is an area steeped in history and because of its riches, one that has been fought over and influenced by a variety of adversaries from the Romans to Atila the Hun. The formation of the region as we know it today began after its conquest by Julius Caesar in 52 BC. It is however, Emperor Augustus who is credited with bringing peace and stability to the Loire Valley. This stability saw the growth of towns such as Orleans (Genabum), Tours (Caesarodunum), Le Mans (Noviodunum), Angers (Juliomagus), Bourges (Avaricum) and Chartres (Autricum). The Roman's greatest influence however might be considered to be the introduction of the first grape vines to the region, as shown in the wine AOC map shown above.
It was a beautiful, sunny spring day, so we decided to go to Montmartre for some fresh air. The word Montmartre is translated to mean “mountain of the martyr” and was derived from the martyrdom of Saint Denis, the bishop of Paris, who was decapitated on the hill in 250 AD. Montmartre's most recognizable landmark is the Basilica Sacré-Coeur, constructed from 1876 to 1912. The white dome of this Roman Catholic basilica sits at the highest point in the city, at the summit of the “butte Montmartre” and the church is visited by millions of tourists each year. This hill outside the city was settled because, during the 19th century, Haussmann under Napoleon III redeveloped Paris and gave much of the prime land inside the city to his wealthy friends, who were charged with the task of developing it. The original inhabitants were forced to move to Paris's outskirts where they quickly established their own “town” without the rules and regulations of the city.
Joan of Arc occupies a central role in Rouen and in the hundred years war. Above is her signature (signed Johanne) taken from one of her three remaining letters. The story of Joan of Arc is not easy because it involves the hundred years war which is a book by itself. In a very simplified version, Joan of Arc is a French heroine against the British, and was executed by burning at the stake by the British in Rouen.