When Was Reims Cathedral Built?

Reims Cathedral was built between 1211 and 1516. The last portion built of the cathedral as we know it today was the partial erection of the spires, which had to stop in 1516 after the end of a royal grant that had been financing the construction works.

Origins and Construction

The First Church on the Site

The site of Reims Cathedral has an ancient religious heritage. The origins trace back to the 5th century, when the first church was built by the Bishop of Reims, St. Nicasius, to commemorate the baptism of King Clovis I, who converted to Christianity in 496 AD. This early church established Reims as an important religious center.

Fire and Reconstruction

In 1210, a devastating fire swept through Reims, ravaging much of the city including the original church on the cathedral site. With the old church in ruins, the bishop and clergy immediately began planning to construct a magnificent new cathedral befitting of Reims’ prestigious status.

Building a Gothic Masterpiece

Construction began on the new cathedral in 1211, with the laying of the first stone. It was built in the breathtaking Gothic architectural style that was at the height of popularity across Europe during that era. Teams of master builders and skilled stone masons worked tirelessly over generations, meticulously assembling the ornate exterior stonework with its iconic pointed arches, flying buttresses, rose windows, and intricate sculptural decoration.

Over 300 Years to Complete

It took an astonishing 300 years for Reims Cathedral to reach completion. The main structure was finished by the early 14th century, but work continued on interior embellishments and exterior elements like the towers and spires. Major construction wrapped up in 1516, though some additional decorative work extended into future centuries. This incredibly lengthy construction period reflects the colossal scale of the cathedral and the immense level of craftsmanship required.

Financing Cathedral Construction

Building such an immense architectural masterpiece required huge sums of money over decades. Construction was funded through a variety of sources including tithes from the local clergy, donations from wealthy patrons, and grants from the French monarchy who had vested interests in seeing the cathedral completed. In fact, the final phase focused on erecting the cathedral’s iconic spires and towers, which had to stop in 1516 when a royal grant financing that portion of the works came to an end.

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