Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims Celebrates 800 Years

This post is by David Wan, one of our contributors.

In celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Notre Dame Cathedral, Reims has organized a six month festival filled with concerts, street performances, exhibitions and parties; all which culminates in a magical sound and light show that illuminates the Cathedral when the clock strikes at 11pm.

Just a 45 minute TGV ride from Paris, Reims – pronounced something like ‘rance’ – is the capital of Champagne and is home to the internationally renowned champagnes houses of Pommery and Mumm. Over a millennium, more than a dozen men would emerge from Reims as Kings and rules of France, the Notre Dame de Reims being the site for their coronation.

Built in the 11th century, the UNESCO World Heritage listed Notre Dame de Reims as a worn-down yet fashionably stunning example of Gothic architecture representative of the time period.

The exterior of the Cathedral is laden with glass stained windows and 2,303 statues; one of which being the pride and joy of Reims –the Smiling Angel. She’s the first statue on the right when entering from the main façade; and being the only one of its kind in France, the Smiling Angel symbolizes peace and prosperity. The rose peddle windows are also a rare feature of the cathedral, illuminating bright, angelic images of apostles and prophets.

The Notre Dame de Reims has been through some highs and lows in its 800 years lifespan. The royal tradition of hosting the coronation in Reims all began with Clovis I, the first King of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes. In 1429, the most famous coronation even to take place in Reims was the coronation of Charles VII, who had Joan of Arc by his side.

During the WWI, the Notre Dame was heavy damaged by artillery fire with important parts of the cathedral left completely destroyed. It took 26 years before the Notre Dame was finally restored to its former state.

The ‘Dream of Colors’ light show definitely takes viewers on a journey through time. It roughly depicts the history of the Cathedral; from the humble beginnings, through to the times of the Kings coronation, all resulting in the climatic ending – a standstill image of the Cathedral in colour.

The show was created by the theatre and film set designer team, Hélène Richard and Jean Michel Queste, aka Sketzo. The background for their inspiration for the ‘Dream of Colors’ was: what if the Cathedral was still painted?

Notre Dame was originally painted, but due to the low quality of the paint in the medieval era, it was easily washed away by the weather. Using this in mind, Sketzo used a combination of high technology and culture to express their artistic vision, resulting in the Notre Dame Cathedral being resurrected to its youthful state.

The ‘Dream of Colours’ sound and light show lasts for 20 minutes and is played twice a night. Here are the dates and times for the show:

  • July – Tuesday to Sunday at 11 pm
  • August – Tuesday to Sunday at 10 pm
  • September – Thursday to Sunday at 9 pm. (exceptions are on 29th and 30th)
  • October – Friday to Sunday at 8:30 pm. (exceptions are on 1st and 2nd)


Image via Chi King‘s flickr stream

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Hi! I’m Megan,

a Scorpio sun and Libra moon who left her job in the music industry to travel and write full-time. Since then, i´ve explored more than 60 countries in the hopes that you will, too.

The world is made of magic and so are you!


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