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Visiting Reims, France, and its Gallo-Roman Porte de Mars: witness to coming and going for almost 2000 years

Updated on July 4, 2011
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Porte de Mars, Reims, France, Gallo-Roman triumphal arch
Porte de Mars, Reims, France, Gallo-Roman triumphal arch | Source
Map location of Reims, France
Map location of Reims, France | Source

Sense the amazing march of time

It is the psychological impact of this structure which is the most striking, I think. When one reckons that this Gallo-Roman triumphal arch has witnessed coming and going locally for nearly 2000 years in what is now Reims, France, this can be a profound consideration indeed.

The Porte de Mars (Gate of Mars), named for the Roman god of war, is thought to date from between the years 180 and and 230, when there existed the Roman city of Durocortorum. Originally there were four such triumphal arches in the city, but only the Porte de Mars has survived.

In the 3rd century the Porte de Mars was incorporated into city walls, built to protection from Barbarian raids. Later, it became part of the walls of an archbishop's castle in the 13th century: a rather drastic reversal of roles (not to say, too, theology...). This archiepiscopal building did not survive the 16th century.

By the 19th century, the ancient Porte de Mars was being recognized by the French state as an important example of Gallo-Roman remains; moreover, the architect Narcisse Brunette undertook restoration work on the triumphal arch.

While compared to the size of the famous Arc de Triomphe, Paris, the Porte de Reims, is admittedly less striking from a visual perspective. On the other hand, consider the chronological aspect of the comparison. When one remembers that the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, dates from the early 19th century, whereas this structure in Reims is Gallo-Roman, there is a sense in which the Parisian one is somewhat dwarfed by it.

Also worth seeing

In Reims, the historic, Medieval Cathedral has associations with many of the French kings, who were crowned there. The Surrender Museum (French: Musée de la reddition ) commemorates the end of World War Two in Europe, when General Eisenhower received Germany's surrender from General Jodl here at Reims in May 1945.

Paris (distance: 144 kilometres), with its numerous, outstanding visitor attractions, is within striking distance of Reims. Why not compare Reims's Porte de Mars with the Arc de Triomphe ?

Laon (distance: 51 kilometres) has an interesting Cathedral dating from the Middle Ages.

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How to get there: Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), where car rental is available. (Paris-Reims, distance: 144 kilometres). The French railroad company SNCF maintains services from Paris to Reims. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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    • MJFenn profile image
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      MJFenn 6 years ago

      JLGroom: Thank-you; if you look at the first link, there is another article on Reims which I wrote some months ago.

    • Johnathan L Groom profile image

      Johnathan L Groom 6 years ago from Bristol, CT

      too short of a piece, but nice!