Three views of the west front of the Cathedral of Rheims/ Reims (Click to enlarge)
Rheims Cathedral, built upon the site of the basilica in which Saint Remi baptised Clovis, the king of the Franks in 496A.D., was the preferred location for the anointing and coronation of most of the French kings. The design of the west front here is similar to that seen at Amiens and Laon- with twin towers and three doorways each of which has a sculpture programme involving column figures which flank the entrances. A significant difference here, however, is the replacement of the tympanum above each door with tracerey and stained glass windows. In fact there is a very real sense of that gothic tendency towards the dissolution or piercing of solid walls. In place of massive masonry there is a concentration of almost web-like lines streching heavenwards. That the builders were reaching for the heavens is beyond doubt. Looking carefully at the bottom picture here it is possible to make out the very beginnings of the spires that were originally intended to crown both towers. It is a reminder of the fact that, as with so many of these gothic churches, impressive as is the image they convey to us today, it still falls somewhat short of the original vision which the builders had in mind. As I stood in the Rue Rockerfeller gazing towards those twin towers and recalled how the Church was conceived as an image of the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, I was struck by the realisation that, as yet, Christendom remains an unfinished project- a work in progress!