This week your lucky arts correspondent drove from Paris to the German town of Bayreuth, a road trip that allowed me to make an early pit stop in Reims, about two hours east of the French capital. At the heart of the city sits Notre-Dame de Reims, an important example of Gothic architecture and an object of pilgrimage for French Catholics, art history buffs and Unesco heritage day-trippers alike.

There has been a sacred building on this site for more than 1,500 years. Clovis, the king of the Franks, was baptised here in the 5th century CE to declare his kingdom a Christian one, and it became the traditional location for the coronation of French royals. Construction of the cathedral as it stands today began at the start of the 13th century and, depending on how you define “complete”, it took between 60 and 200 years to finish...

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