Reims Cathedral

The Transept rose windows

These roses are the earliest in the cathedral, dating from the early 1230s. They have their iconography echoed in the archivaults: The Creation and Genesis cycle in the north and Christ with 12 apostles in the south. Some of the north glass remains, but the south rose has been rebuilt twice.


North rose

Dates from after 1231 (there were notorious riots that interrupted building 1233-38!) but was complete before 1241, possiby by 1238-39. Louis Grodecki suggests 1250, adding that the window is now "incomplete and disordered" (p.113) since it was very restored in the C17 such that now "only two heads are original"! It has 12 divisions featuring Genesis with angels, animals and fish in the outer layer: animals at 2,3,4,8,9,10 o'clock: fish at 5,6,7 and angels at 11,12,1. In the main lights at 12 o'clock God creates Adam; 1, Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden (1872); 2, Adam delves and Eve spins (1872); 3, Eve feeding her child Seth; 4, Cain cultivates the ground; 5, Offering of Abel; 6,Cain kills Abel (1872 replacement); 7, Abel brings lamb to sacrifice; 8. Adam & Eve banished from Eden; 9, God speaks to Adam; 10, The Serpent entices Eve; 11, Adam & Eve seduced by the Knowledge of the tree of Good and Evil. At the centre Virgin and Child.

north rose

north rose details

South rose

12 spokes: originally C13 glass, destroyed in a storm in 1580, then reconstituted by Nicolas Derode in 1581, but the C16 glass was destroyed in the First World War. Christ was at the centre of Derode's scheme, with 12 apostles in the 12 outer circles, although how much was his and how much was medieval is unknown: it is the same in the archivaults. It was replaced with Jacques Simon window in 1937, with Christ in Glory surrounded by angels and the 12 apostles.

West rose

This west window has been through a number of changes over the centuries. Its date of construction has also generated much debate. Frankle, p144, says:- "since the labyrinth showed the 4th architect, Bernard of Soissons, drawing a rose window it is likely that he designed the W rose and its storey. This was constructed probably in the early to mid 1260s because his rose is indebted to Pierre de Montreuil's rose in the S tspt façade of Paris, designed at the earliest in 1258 and and under construction in the early 1260s." Another source gives suggests the rose was finished 1277-1299 - and Caviness suggests 1260. It is possible that it only received its glass at the end of century. With a diameter of 12 meters 12 lights surrounding the centre give way to 48 in 3 concentric circles. At the centre is the Assumption of the BVM, then the 12 Apostles, then 24 angel musicians with incensers & seraphims; in the 3rd circle are 2 angels carrying crowns, 4 fials of perfume and 6 kings/ancestors of the Virgin. (see the full description on p391 of the Corpus Vitrearium volume.) In the spandrels Christ is between the sun and moon and carries the soul of His mother to Heaven. The window was re-leaded in the mid C18 muddling the panels. It was badly damaged by hail in 1886 and restored during 1908-9. Before the first World War 1/2 of the mosaic and 1/3 of the medallions were old. After, only 1/4 of the original glass ws left. It was very restored again in 1925.

The tympanum west rose: (photo: "Rose WIndows" p.XXX) This dates from after 1255 although the original glass was probably lost in the C19. It now features the Litany of the Virgin in glass by Jacques Simon of 1937.