'It is the most beautiful chapel in my kingdom!' is claimed to have been said by Louis XIV when entering the Châlons-en-Champagne Cathedral on 8 March 1680.
It has to be said that this structure, built in the 12th century and consecrated by Pope Eugene III on 26 October 1147, is considered to be a 13th century gem of Gothic architecture. And nature was not ignorant of this event. On 26 October 1147, during the consecration, a total eclipse of the sun occurred.
Miracle or curse?
The fact is that these natural elements were not quite as mild afterwards, since in 1230 lightning struck the construction, which caught fire and was partially damaged. However, this catastrophe did spare some of the earlier Romanesque elements, like the north tower and the crypt, which are still visible today. Representing the peak of Gothic architecture, the nave serves as a vessel for light while its wall surfaces are reduced to a maximum. It is remarkable for both its design and technical implementation, but also for the materialisation of the theological idea that the church built of rock and drowned by the light represents the people of God imbued with Christ, the divine symbol of light.
Also built in the Gothic style, the north door and the seven bays date from the end of the 13th century, while two bays in this same nave, built in the identical manner, date from as late as the 17th century.
The absidiole chapels date from the 14th century. As for the great door, it is in the Renaissance style. The cathedral is also famous for its stained-glass windows, which comprise a series that are considered to be exceptional.
The Romanesque stained-glass window from the 12th century that represents the Redemption is one of the most beautiful ones in the world. Those found above the high altar were offered by young King Saint Louis IX in 1237. The rose window of the north arm, which dates from the 16th century, displays a unique shade of green.