Discover a city rebuilt between the two wars
People don't come to Reims for its medieval downtown. There is nothing left of it. The First World War did indeed cause the near-total destruction of the city. In the 1920s and 30s, out of this chaos grew Art Deco buildings, Art Nouveau, and other architectural currents of the time. Then, spared by the Second World War, the City played one of its most beautiful roles. Let us tell you this story.
Reims, the city martyred by the Great War
Struck in the first days of the war, Reims suffered ceaselessly during the four years of the conflict. The inhabitants remained there and the soldiers took shelter in the cellars of the Champagne houses to escape the constant bombings. Graffiti and carvings on the walls still bear witness to their underground life. They will be revealed to you during your visit to the cellar. The Cathedral was burned by a shell on September 19, 1914. The lead that served as reinforcement for its roof melted, running through the gutters to the gargoyles, which will forever bear its traces. Tour the Palace of Tau to discover them.
Does the history of the Great War interest you? The Fort de la Pompelle, located a few kilometres South of Reims, which occupied a strategic position between 1914 and 1918, always remained in the hands of the Allies. The tour of the museum, inside the Fort, is a true testimony of the impact of the 1st World War, with a rich collection of period objects and an interesting scenography. The tour is captivating.
Art deco, Art nouveau: it’s up there!
Facades with sumptuous decorations can be found throughout Reims city-centre, but you still have to lift your head at the right time. The best way to avoid missing anything is to tour the city with a guide or with tablet tours offered by the Tourism Office.
Two examples that you must not miss:
the Carnegie Library, a true Art Deco masterpiece, where the entrance hall is adorned with a monumental coloured glass chandelier, and the Opera, where the decorations, bas-reliefs and ironwork express the subtlety of the architecture of reconstruction.
Do you like Art Deco? Collect the Collector Postcards created by Vitrines de Reims and available from some of their members. To learn more(in French).
Second World War: a heritage of peace
Sparing Reims from another destruction, the Second World War had little impact on the city. However, it was in Reims that the last act of the conflict was played out. It was here on May 7, 1945, at 2:41 am, in the headquarters of the Allied Forces commanded by General Eisenhower, that Nazi Germany signed its surrender. In the current Roosevelt High School, the room where the Act was signed was preserved as it was, and a museum was created all around it. This is a striking tour that enables us to understand how the end of the war took place and in particular why the collective memory retained May 8 and not May 7.