Reims is one of the most important cities in French history, and that’s because the city is home to a Gothic cathedral that served a remarkable purpose.
Reims Cathedral or “Notre-Dame de Reims” was the traditional coronation of the kings of France for many centuries.
When you walk around this monumental landmark in Reims you’ll notice a prominent structure sticking out of it.
In this article, you’ll discover some of the most interesting facts about the Palace of Tau, a famous palace that is about just as important as the nearby cathedral.
1. It’s located at the southeastern corner of the cathedral in the heart of Reims
The Palace of Tau or Palais du Tau as it’s locally known is a historic building that is located right next to the magnificent Gothic Cathedral of Reims.
It served as the palace of the Archbishop of Reims. The Diocese of Reims has a history that goes back to Roman times in the 3rd century and it became an Archdiocese in 750.
The palace is a relatively small structure compared to the cathedral and nearly adjoins the church on its southeastern corner.
On the opposite side, you can find the Carnegie Library of Reims, a remarkable Art Deco Building that occupies an entire city block.
2. A structure has occupied this location since at least the 6th century
There has been no mention of the palace until the 12th century but it’s certain that a much older Gallo-Roman villa occupied this location in the 6th century.
The building was transformed into a Carolingian Palace which served as the base of the structure was can admire today.
While this is true, there is no trace of these former buildings anymore, not even in the basement of the palace.
3. The name of the Palace of Tau was derived from the building’s design
So why is it referred to as the Palace of Tau anyway?
This name was first used in the year 1130 and was a reference to the shape of the building as it resembles the letter “T.”
Tau is the name of the 19th letter in the Greek alphabet. It was used to describe the palace in the 12th center and the name stuck into the modern era.
4. The oldest part of the building dates back to the early 13th century
The oldest part of the building isn’t the foundation of the Gallo-Roman villa or even the Carolingian palace but the chapel of the palace of Tau.
This Gothic building is located in between the palace and the cathedral and was completed in 1207.
Like most Gothic structures, it features high windows and a remarkably tall ceiling for such a relatively small chapel.
5. The core Gothic structure was given a Baroque design in the 18th century
The original structure in this location was completely rebuilt between 1498 and 1509 and also incorporated the popular Gothic style at the time.
There’s no trace of this design anymore because the palace was completely rebuilt once again in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
It was completely rebuilt in the Baroque style between 1671 and 1710 by renowned French architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708).
Mansart was involved in the design of some major landmarks in Paris, including the Place Vendôme and the famous dome of Les Invalides.
6. It played an important role during the coronation of the French kings
Reims Cathedral was the location of the Coronation of the Kings of France between 1027 and 1825. The Palace of Tau played a major role during this event.
Not only did the French kings stay here during their visit to Reims but it’s also here that the lavish banquet following the coronation took place.
You can imagine a room full of barrels of wine and a jolly company celebrating the most important event in the country in the main hall of the palace.
7. The palace houses a museum that has some fascinating artifacts on display
The Palais du Tau is still used for official events in the city of Reims today and can be used for many other cultural events as well.
The most important reason to visit the palace is the museum it houses which has some amazing historic artifacts on display.
Apart from a wide variety of tapestries and artifacts that once decorated Reims Cathedral, it also houses:
- The Talisman of Charlemagne – Believed to be an artifact once owned by Charlemagne in the early 9th century.
- Gilded reliquaries of the Holy Thorn, the Resurrection, and Saint Ursula.
- The Coronation Chalice – A chalice used by the French kings at the end of the coronation ceremony.
8. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991
The historical significance of Reims Cathedral and the Palace of Tau has been recognized by UNESCO and both were inscribed as World Heritage sites in 1991.
They were adjoined by another famous Romanesque building in Reims called the Abbey of Saint-Rémi which still features its original 9th-century nave.