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The Treasure of the Ancien Régime

Let yourself be dazzled by this treasure once housed in Rheims Cathedral, part of which was sent to be melted down during the French Revolution. A golden opportunity to discover some of the most outstanding pieces now on display at the Palais du Tau!

Charlemagne's talisman

What's so special about this talisman?

By definition, a talisman is an object bearing consecrated signs attributed with protective virtues and magical powers. Enchanting, you might say!

Charlemagne's Talisman, a double-sided jewel mounted as a pendant, contains a relic of the Cross of Christ!

Did it really belong to Charlemagne?

Legend has it that this reliquary was discovered hanging around his neck during an exhumation in 1166.

Although it dates from the Carolingian era, there is no text to confirm that it belonged to the Emperor of the West and King of the Franks...

Le talisman de Charlemagne

© Pascal Lemaître / Centre des monuments nationaux

What is the fate of this talisman?

Its romantic destiny is associated with many historical figures, including Charlemagne, Napoleon I,Empress Josephine, Hortense de Beauharnais and Napoleon III and his wife,Empress Eugénie.

In 1802, the Bishop of Aachen presented the reliquary to Empress Josephine, who accompanied Napoleon on a pilgrimage to the city where Charlemagne's relics were kept.

Napoleon saw himself as his successor, and wanted to follow in thefootsteps of the Carolingian kings.

The Talisman was passed on to Josephine, then to Hortense de Beauharnais, who bequeathed it to the future Napoleon III.

Finally, Empress Eugénie, moved by the bombing of Reims in 1914, donated it to Reims Cathedral.

Détail du reliquaire de Charlemagne : aperçu d'un os du bras droit de l'Empereur

© Pascal Lemaître / Centre des monuments nationaux

The coronation chalice

Dating from the late 12th century, the coronation chalice, brought back from the East during the Crusades, is considered a masterpiece of Byzantine art.

The circular base bears this inscription: " Quicumque hunc calicem invadiaverit vel ab ecclesia Remensi aliqui modo alienaverit anathema sit fiat amen ".
This means " Whoever seizes this chalice and by any means removes it from this church, is anathema, Amen ". (in other words, be excommunicated).

What was the particular use of this chalice?

The chalice recalls the cup of wine at the Last Supper. It is used in the Eucharistic celebration for the consecration of wine, thus becoming the blood of Christ, and was used for the communion of the King of France at the coronation mass.

Removed from the treasury under the decree of 1792, then transported to the Franciade district (Saint-Denis), it was almost melted down by the Mint! Eventually, it fell into oblivion...

After the Terror, it was sent to the Cabinet des Antiques of the Bibliothèque Nationale. Claimed on several occasions by Cardinal Gousset, the chalice was finally returned to Reims under Napoleon III on March 19, 1961 by Monseigneur d'Adras, chaplain to his majesty.

Détail du pied du Calice du Sacre (XIIè siècle)

© Pascal Lemaître / Centre des monuments nationaux

The nave of Sainte Ursule

Navefs were traditional gifts presented to queens by urban authorities.

These ship-shaped objects were part of theart of the table. Placed next to an important figure, they could serve as a storage box for the owner's personal effects (spices, napkins, cutlery) or have a purely decorative function.

The Nave de Sainte Ursule is one of the precious items from the French Crown Treasure, donated to Reims Cathedral for the kings and queens of France.

It is a ceremonial nave with a lid, articulated and animated by small crewmen. It was presented to Queen Anne de Bretagne when she visited Tours in 1500.

Kept among the crown jewels until 1574: in that year, Henri III presented it in Reims on the occasion of his coronation, and had it engraved with his coat of arms and the inscription " à ce qu'il plaiseusement à la puissance divine de conduire les affaires de Gaules agitées en tant de flots de sédition, au port de la tranquillité".

Nef de Sainte Ursule (XVIè siècle)

© Benjamin Gavaudo / Centre des monuments nationaux

The nave, an object of devotion?

In 1505, Anne de Bretagne transformed the nave into a reliquary, with twelve female statuettes by goldsmith Henri Duzen.

They sport long hair and large cloaks, and are depicted in prayerful attitudes. Near the mast, in the center of the bridge, stands the most lavishly dressed and the only one in gold: Sainte Ursule, wearing a golden crown. Dressed in a red and gold ermine-lined cloak and blue gown, perhaps she takes on the features of Anne de Bretagne?

Who is Saint Ursula?

Ursula, a Breton princess and her companions, the 11,000 virgins, were captured by the Huns during the siege of Cologne. Refusing to marry their leader Attila and renounce her faith, she and her followers are riddled with arrows...

Détail de la nef de Sainte Ursule

© Benjamin Gavaudo / Centre des monuments nationaux

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