Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Reims

Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Reims

Date ca. 1225-90

Movement High Gothic

Located at Reims, France

 

Reims was the cathedral within which French kings were coronated. Given its physical and political proximity to Paris, Reims takes upon similarities to Notre-Dame, Paris. For example, both cathedrals incorporate a broad transept that hardly extends beyond the nave. At Paris, sculptures are given clear compartments within which to live, and bands help to clearly define the façade’s elevation; here, however, sculptures seemingly take whichever place they can find. Windows have also taken the place of tympanum sculptures.

 

Annunciation and Visitation Programs on Western Facade

As at Amiens, we can see that just a few decades can considerably change the treatment of sculptural decorations; likewise, we see a continuation in the trend of separating the jamb columns and their figures. The earlier Visitation pair at the right (ca. 1230-33) have been given a Classical treatment, with rough lines in the garments accentuating the bodily figures and adding bulk—it is likely that the sculptor was basing his work off Classical Roman models. The Annunciation pair at the left (Gabriel, ca. 1255-65; and the Virgin Mary, ca. 1240-45) displays smoother planes upon the faces and garments; though they are roughly the same height as their counterparts to the right, their heads are smaller and their body parts have a tubular quality.

 

Melchizedek and Abraham 

Though these sculptures live within deeply cut niches on the interior Western wall, the fact that they interact with each other (as do the Annunciation and Visitation pairs), we can determine a greater emphasis on the space they inhabit and how they connect with the viewer. Their inclusion here was symbolic—as famous Old Testament leaders, they would have served as great examples for the kings that were crowned in this cathedral.