France 2017


Photos by Gloria & Walt Fogler-Mancini


Reims is the former capital of Champagne which is now part of France’s Grand Est.  Before it was conquered by the Romans, it was the capital of the Gaulish tribe, the Remi. Its wine dates from that time.  Now, wine ages in chalk caves and tunnels under the city that go back to Roman times. During WWI over 80% of Reims’ blocks were destroyed.  Now, it is a very pleasant place to visit.

Reims’ Cathédrale Notre-Dame is one of the greatest in France and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Thirty-one French kings were crowned there.  Among its thousands of statues are those of 56 kings.  Since it was damaged in WWI, it has been extensively restored and has many newer windows such as those by Marc Chagall.  The Palais de Tau next door was involved in coronations and has 17 15C tapestries.

The Champagne wine growing region is about 2% of the French vineyards.  Though the monk Dom Perignon worked with wine in Hautvilliers in the 17C, champagne as we know it did not develop until the 19C. 

Châlons-en-Champagne is part of the “sacred triangle of Champagne” and home to the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Châlons.  Its stained glass windows are noteworthy.

Troyes is 150 km SE of Paris on the Seine.  It was the hub of Roman roads, has a long history as part of the trade route from Italy to Flanders, and was the capital of the Counts of Champagne.  A fire in 1524 destroyed 1000+ houses and the town was rebuilt.  It still has narrow cobbled streets and colorful half-timbered houses.

The 13C Pope Urban IV was from Troyes and it has many churches. Nine out of 25 survived the fire.  Some were damaged during religious conflicts.  The School of Troyes was famous for its glasswork and it can be seen in the 12-17C windows of Cathédrale St-Pierre et St-Paul. 

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January 24, 2018                                                                                                                                                                             wgfm



The village of Grand is east of Champagne, off the beaten path.  Two thousand years ago it was a Celtic holy water sanctuary.  In Roman times, it attracted pilgrims, tourists and gladiators, including the emperors Caracalla and Constantine.   Now it is an archaeological site that includes a 17,000 seat amphitheater, an underground network of water tunnels, and the 225 sq. meter mosaic of the “basilica”.  It is the biggest, well-preserved Roman mosaic in France. With marble imported from all around the empire, Grand was splendid.