During our stay in Champagne, we selected a hotel in the city of Reims (Rheims in French). Before our arrival, we had no clue how historically significant the town was.
However, as I stated on last week’s Gratitude Friday post, our champagne guide was a bit of a history expert. While exploring the rolling hills of the Champagne region, we also had the benefit of a history lesson. We learned that the tribe of Remi founded Reims. Caesar invaded the Gauls and in 51BC conquered it with the help of the tribe of Remi, whom he rewarded for their help.
From then, It was a Roman city. They built the triumphal arch in 200AD, largest arch outside of Rome.
In the 5th century, Clovis became the first king to reunite all the territories within France. He was baptized at the site of the current Basilica St Remi in Reims. His armies converted to Catholic Christianity in the same way Clovis did, per the traditions of the time for soldiers to follow their leader. From that point on, Reims became the religious center of the region.
From then on, all kings were coronated in Reims. Most occurred in the Cathedrale Notre Dame. Most famously, Joan of arc stood by King Charles XII during his coronation ceremony after her vision to help him become monarch and overthrow Britain’s control.
Soon, Paris overtook Reims in size and became the most prominent city in France. However, this change didn’t keep Reims safe in WWI when it was seen as a symbol of France’s rich history and bombed 1051 consecutive days in a row, destroying over 90% of it. This was known as the ‘crime of Reims’. Since, they have repaired and rebuilt, but the impact was devastating.
As discussed last Friday, also in WWI, Reims saw the 1st battle of the Marne and advent of trench warfare. Sadly, Reims and the surrounding countryside has seen more than its fair share of bloodshed.
WWII treaty was also signed in Reims after the German surrender.