Christianity was introduced in the middle of the 3C AD by the bishop Sixtus. A cathedral had been built in the 4C but, early in the 5C an episcopal complex was built on the site where a number of cathedrals were to follow subsequently before the Gothic masterpiece that still stands there. That being said, several places of worship appeared near the burial grounds to the south of the town, which is where Saint Remi was buried, the bishop who baptised Clovis and the Frankish monarchy at the end of the 5C. It was this event that was to give Reims the honour of hosting the coronation of French kings thereafter.
During the Carolingian period, Reims became the bishopric to which eleven dioceses belonged: bishops Ebbon and Hincmar were instrumental in spreading the town’s sphere of influence, which subsequently became home to some of the most erudite schools. It was also thanks to Adalbéron of Reims that Hugues Capet came to the French throne. Many monastic communities settled here: the royal abbey of Saint Remi was at its peak in the 11C and 12C, as illustrated by the basilica, a Romanesque building that was reshaped during the first Gothic period and which still has its 12C stained glass windows and the tomb of Saint Remi. Not far from there, Saint Nicaise abbey (which no longer exists) was built in the 13C - its church even rivalled the cathedral.
The cathedral, which was begun in 1211, is the most visited building in Reims and is admired for the technical expertise of its architecture - the vault of its nave soaring to a height of 38 metres - and for its abundant ornamentation. The subjects of its stained glass windows echo those of its exterior sculptures and are emblematic of the coronation of Bible kings as well as those of the kings of France.
At this time, the city expanded and any remaining land was divided into plots: at the end of the 12C, the bishop who had issued the charter granting the town's free status donated a plot of land in order for craftsmen to settle there outside the city walls. The old forum, which had become a drapery and cereal market, was the scene of prosperous business activity. It wasn't until the mid-14C that new fortifications surrounded the town within one set of walls, which quickly allowed the city to defend itself - the English had arrived at its gates. In 1429, Joan of Arc paved the way for Charles VII’s triumph by bringing him to our city for his coronation.
> Saint Remi museum (Musée Saint-Remi)
has a gallery entirely devoted to archaeology.
For further information, please contact the museum on
> The cathedral's media resources centre (médiathèque)
has a permanent exhibition on archaeological digs and Gallo-Roman remains in Reims.
> The archaeological society (société archéologique champenoise) has published a book on Reims and its walls in the 4C AD.