The Champagne region holds particular significance for French history. It was originally part of the Roman province of Gallia Belgica, which in the 5th Century became the seat of the Merovingian dynasty that ousted the Romans. At its head was the Frankish King Clovis, whose baptism in Rheims established the precedent for royal anointing in Rheims cathedral that ended with the last King of France, Charles X. In medieval times, Champagne was the venue of great annual trading fairs. In World War I it was the bloody battlefield of the Western Front, later coming to symbolise the reconciliation between France and Germany.
For 300 years the Champagne Houses have been adding to this exceptional heritage through the commissioning of architectural masterpieces that sing the praises of the King of Wines.
Without Rheims Cathedral, Champagne would not have the image that it enjoys today.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame of Rheims is among the World Heritage sites listed by UNESCO.
The Château de Mareuil dates back to 18th Century French nobleman Thomas de Domangeville who had it built as a home befitting his young bride. In the mid 19th Century the chateau passed into the hands of Edmond de Ayala, founder of the House of Ayala that retained ownership until the 1930s.
Château de Bligny is the joint headquarters of Champagne Houses G.H. Martel and de Cazanove, built in 1773 on top of the ruins of a feudal chateau. All that remains of the medieval Louis XIII-style castle today is the front door with its finely sculpted grape and vine branch motifs.
The Clicquot-Ponsardin Hôtel Particulier (private mansion) is situated in the heart of Reims, just two steps from the Place Royale. Built c.1780 by Jean-Nicolas-Philippe Ponsardin, textile industrialist and 18th Century French Baron, it is today the headquarters of the Rheims and Epernay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Château de Saran is a privately owned stately home in the village of Chouilly. It was built in 1801 for Jean-Remy Moët, grandson of the founder of the chateau’s present owners, Champagne House Moët & Chandon, which entertains its most distinguished guests here.
Châlons-en-Marne, regional capital of Champagne-Ardennes, holds a special place in Champagne history as the home of the gleuco-œnomètre, a "wine sugar meter" that from 1831 onwards made it possible to control the rate of second fermentation in the bottle. Its inventor was Jean-Baptiste François, a pharmacist and former soldier in Napoleon’s Grande Armée, and his technique became known as the Reduction François.
Walls can sometimes conceal strange secrets ... No-one would ever guess, for example, that behind the walls of this property in Cumières, owned by Champagne House Joseph Perrier, there is an exact replica of the botanical garden of the French National Assembly.
For more than 200 years the Résidence de Trianon has embodied luxury in the French style. The property with its orangery is one of two identical elements built for Jean-Rémy Moët in the period 1805-1817, making up an architectural complex that is said to have been designed by French decorator and miniature painter, Jean-Baptiste Isabey. Since 1967, following long occupation as a private residence, the Trianon has been reserved for the exclusive enjoyment of distinguished visitors to Moët & Chandon.
These huge tableaux are sculpted directly in the soft chalk of the deepest crayères, up to 15m in length and 6m in height. They illustrate various bacchanalian scenes: "Silenus" and his Mad Maenads court in 1884; the "Festivals of Bacchus", an allegory of the five senses in 1883.
The Auban family is well known for its many donations in support of culture and the building of churches and private schools. But our principal focus here falls on their activities in the field of social welfare, and the building of the Hôpital Auban-Moët in particular. Victor Auban became an associate of Champagne House Moët & Chandon when he married his cousin Rachel Moët de Romont.
On 7 May 1889 the Foudre Mercier made its eagerly-awaited entrance at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Drawn by a team of 24 oxen all the way from Epernay, Mercier’s giant Champagne barrel was greeted as a worthy rival to the Eiffel Tower and received a rousing reception from the audience.
In 1898, the House of Mumm built cellars and offices close by the town hall, with two aims in mind: art and function. The building was the brainchild of architect Ernest Kalas and artist Auguste Guilbert-Martin and served as the headquarters of the Union des Maisons de Champagne from 1907 to 1914.
At the close of the 19th Century, Madame Roederer, widow of Eugène Roederer and a great patron of religious works, built an old people’s hospice in the Rue de Courlancy. The hospice was opened on 19 October 1899 by the archbishop and other notable figures (among them Charles Heidsieck).
The Avenue de Champagne (formerly the Avenue de Commerce) extends for nearly one kilometre, lined on both sides by magnificent private dwellings lovingly constructed over many centuries by the Champagne Houses. Some were originally built as a Head Office, others as the private home of the proprietor. All of them reflect an architectural style that celebrates the brand in particular and Champagne in general.
Drawings, inscriptions, graffiti … the chalk walls of the Champagne cellars are inscribed with simple messages that represent an important historical record. A priceless treasure at the heart of UNESCO World Heritage.
After joining the "Allies" in 1917, the United States eventually committed their forces to bring freedom to Europe in the two World Wars. Then from 1947 to 1951, they financed the "Marshall Plan" in aid of those countries that had been devastated by war.
In 1919, with Rheims in ruins after the ravages of the First World War, Joseph Krug proposed the idea for The Chemin-Vert Garden City. Construction was placed in the hands of the Foyer Rémois agency that was set up in 1912 by the industrialist Georges Charbonneaux.
After the First World War, Mrs Edith Bangs, president of the American Memorial Hospital Foundation, canvassed the support of the great families on the American East Coast to fund a one hundred bed hospital in Rheims.
In April 1919, an American doctor named Marie-Louise Lefort arrived in Rheims with a large team to treat the victims of gas warfare.
Rheims Tennis Club was established by its first president, Count Maxence de Polignac, cousin of Melchior, Marquis of Polignac and director of the House of Pommery. The club was officially constituted on 11 June 1920 and took four years to build. Much is owed to the generous support of Mrs A M Dike and Mrs Anne Morgan of the Comité Américain pour les Régions Dévastées (CARD), and to the benevolence of its members and founding committee. The competition-standard open-air swimming pool was added the following summer. Count Maxence remained president of the club until 1933.
Generous American benefactor Andrew Carnegie gives Rheims an Art Deco library.
The library was built in the period 1921-1927, under the direction of Rheims architect Max Sainsaulieu (1870-1953), and formally opened on 10 June 1928 in the presence of French president Gaston Doumergue and US ambassador Myron T Herrick.
The Champagne stained-glass window that graces the south transept of Rheims Notre Dame Cathedral was generously sponsored by the Winegrowers and Houses of Champagne.
The Rheims Cathedral clock and carillon form an inseparable part of the liturgical life overseen by the cathedral chapter. Today they ring out once more thanks to the patronage of Winegrowers and Champagne Houses, whose support was rewarded on 5 December 1988 with those long awaited first chimes.
Restoration of the central portal vaulting.
First dug in the 3rd Century and worked until the time of the Revolution, these chalk pits (carrières) offer ideal conditions for the aging of Champagne: constant temperature, a complete absence of vibrations and a perfect level of humidity.
The Abbaye d’Hautvillers was founded by Saint Nivard, Archbishop of Rheims (nephew of King Dagobert of France), said to have appeared to the good clergyman in a dream. It was also famously the domain of Dom Pérignon (1639 - 1715), cellar master of the Abbey from 1668 to his death.
The residence of the Counts of Champagne is a Taittinger property located in the heart of Rheims between the town hall and the cathedral. Built in the 13th Century, it served as the residence of Thibaud IV (1201–1253) and the Counts of Champagne in general when they came to Rheims for the anointing of the kings of France.
The origins of the Hotel le Vergeur date back to the 13th Century and a time when markets were held in the Forum (on the vestiges of a Gallo-Roman forum that remain visible to this day). The Rue du Marc quarter was peopled by the gentry and bourgeoisie, close to the home of the Counts of Champagne (belonging to Taittinger). The Hotel Le Vergeur’s two levels of vaulted cellars suggest that the property originally traded in still Champagne wines.