The town grew continuously in size and population throughout the 19C. After having served as the stage for Napoleon Bonaparte's last victory in 1814, when he won the city back from the Russians, Reims hosted the coronation of Charles X, who was the last monarch to be crowned there, although the event was more of a parody than a sacrament.
Sales of champagne and the textile trade (which was soon to experience considerable ups and downs) went from strength to strength. Reims became the home of businesses with multiple branches. Many public buildings were built – law courts, theatre, circus and carousel, as well as a basilica dedicated to Saint Clotilde, reliquary of the saints of France.
Just before the First World War, a college for athletes was built in large grounds equipped with a variety of sports facilities. The city organised its first air shows. Reims was flattened by the end of four years of destruction and had even been completely evacuated during the last six months of the war.
From the chaos of its1,250,000 cubic metres of rubble, its historic monuments, including the cathedral and Saint Remi basilica, were raised again and the city rebuilt by around 400 architects. Reconstruction sometimes reflected the art deco style that was in vogue in 1920 – 1930, a typical example of which is the Carnegie library.
But the new buildings were mostly eclectic in style: a whole catalogue of decorative patterns and motifs dotted the length of the road with nature being a recurrent source of inspiration for those who rebuilt the city. Major artists, such as Maurice Denis and René Lalique, put their talents at the service of the church in Chemin-Vert garden city.
The city was spared during WWII. Chosen as General Eisenhower's supreme headquarters, it was in Reims that German capitulation was signed at 2.41am on 7 May 1945. Symbolically, it was also in Reims in 1962 that General De Gaulle and Chancellor Adenauer put the seal on Franco-German reconciliation with the celebration of a solemn mass performed in the cathedral.
Several years later, the artist Foujita decorated a chapel dedicated to peace with fresco work. The city's public areas have now been redeveloped, various structures converted for the purpose of cultural activities and many museums offer a good insight into the city's prestigious past. Building continues in Reims with, for example, the construction of a congress centre, a music & dance academy and two media resources centres.
> 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.