Stage 4: July 9, 2019

Ronquières

The King’s Gothic Cathedral

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There are Gothic Cathedrals and then there are Gothic Cathedrals. The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is one of the latter – a spectacular specimen made for kings in the city now at the heart of a region now associated with luxury living. Reims became an important Christian site after Clovis, ruler of the Franks, was baptized here in 496, giving his endorsement to the non-pagan religion. Following his conversion, king after king came here to be crowned and consecrated. An original cathedral burned in 1210, but local resolve began the re-building the following year. Work continued for several centuries, but later architects retained the stylistic motifs that originated in 1211. As such, the Reims Cathedral is unique for it brings together evolutionary elements from across Europe and unifying them within the existing design. Of note are the statues that grace the Cathedral’s façade. Converse to the unifying theme of the broader architecture, the statues are an exhibit in variation that mark diversity of styles – here two main schools were exemplified: a return to medieval tradition and a Graeco-Roman influence. The Gallery of Kings is a centralized monument with Clovis at the helm that represents the latter while the famed smiling Angel of Reims is a purely medieval icon that became popular and exported throughout the medieval Christian world, from Spain to Germany. From nuanced details to the grandeur of the nave, Reims Cathedral is a classic, like a vintage Dom Perignon, to be popped and enjoyed as a celebration of life.

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Waterloo

Napoleon’s Waterloo

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Just two hundred years ago, the small town of Waterloo, Belgium became instantly famous as Napoleon’s final defeat at the hands of England’s Duke of Wellington. It was a circus of sorts, the final act of one of Europe’s and the world’s notorious yet influential leaders. On a field several kilometers south of the town of Waterloo on the road to Charleroi, a European collation defeated Napoleon Bonaparte once and for all on June 18, 1815. Of course, Napoleon was one of the greatest political and military minds to ever live, literally rising through the ranks from Lieutenant to Emperor. During his ten-year reign, France’s boundary expanded to include most of Europe. Following the fall of Paris, Napoleon abdicated and was exiled to the island of Elba, where he retained the title of “Emperor.” Yet only domination could satisfy Napoleon’s appetite for power and he made a triumphant and dramatic return to France in March 1815. It was at Waterloo where the armies of Europe addressed Napoleon. The battlefield is one of the most famous in European history and while the visual center of the landscaped exhibits is the Lion’s Mound, the more authentic focal points lie in the extant buildings and fields where some 200,000 troops clashed for the future of Europe. The 141-foot hill, while constructed in 1825 to commemorate where the Prince of Orange was wounded, it does off an excellent panoramic view of the battlefield and the surrounding areas. To the north and south, see if you can pinpoint the headquarters of Wellington and Napoleon, respectively. Other nineteenth century farm buildings remain as well. This is one of those places that you have heard about in history books and lore, but it’s also alive for you  experience firsthand.

Where to Watch

A world class cathedral, legendary Champagne houses, and so much more.

With an old town of half-timbered houses, this city on the Marne River with the Canal latéral à la Marne adjacent, it’s a pint-sized city with a lot to offer.

The approach to Nancy is topped by a 4.4 km. climb that will likely split the field. Watch the peloton just past the industrial town of Neuves-Maisons before heading into Nancy to take in it’s cultural gems.

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