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The specific cultural heritage of Montagne de Reims

The territory of the natural regional Park of Montagne de Reims is rich with a specific cultural heritage closely linked with the activity of Men and the World History. Invaded territory, exploited, destroyed and rebuilt, the Park is marked by the Gallo-Roman period, the Middle-Ages and the Wars that hit the region.

Villages of Montagne de Reims

Quite discreet at first sight, the rural traditional architecture of Montagne de Reims is full of nuances linked to the variety and heterogeneous distribution in the subsoil of local construction materials.

In all villages, facades, even the plainest ones, are decorated with more or less rich elements: cornices, string courses or frames in bricks or dressed stone. The roof coverings mainly in red clay roof tiles, also participate a lot to the overall harmony of such building sets. But beside the materials used, the place where the buildings stand in Champagne area follows a characteristic gathering model forming intimate yards and favouring backyards. Many habitations and public buildings still hold this typical architectural heritage today. Discover the House of the Park, a demonstration space of the materials and colours of the buildings and the permanent exhibition « (e)co habit, think global > act local ».

Roman church of Cuchery ©PNRMR

Remembrance of Roman art and the Middle-Ages, Roman churches are scattered throughout the area. Strongly damaged, sometimes totally destroyed during the Great War, many of them have been rebuilt while keeping their vaults, bell towers, arches and columns in tribute to their builders’ art.

The Roman churches of the Ardre Valley are often short and stocky. They are all surmounted with square or rectangular towers ending with a saddle roof, called "bell towers". Most are located at the centre of the communal cemetery, itself with a surrounding wall. Most Roman churches were extended or altered partly between 13th and 16th century, others were rebuilt at the end of the First World War in a "neo-roman" style.

Wash-house of Orcourt ©PNRMR

Favourite places for women before, many wash-houses have been kept like in Mareuil-sur-Ay, Dizy or at Orcourt hamlet. In low water periods, you can see, in the River Marne, the remains of the boat wash-house of Tours-sur-Marne. Built in stone, wood, bricks, in a modest or rich design, wash-houses and fountains are an integral part of the heritage today. At the south of the Park, bridges, locks, lockmasters’ houses, weirs are still present along the canal lateral to the Marne River. Don’t miss the amazing swing bridge of Bisseuil, the weirs of Tours-sur-Marne or even the lock and lockmaster’s house in Dizy.

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Remembrance of the Great War

Culminating at over 200 meters high, the Montagne de Reims was used as a promontory for 4 years to observe the front line during the First World War, going from Fort de la Pompelle to Suippes, and it was also a scene of much fighting.

In 1914, while the Germans invade the North-East of France, they are stopped during the 1st battle of the Marne. Then a static war begins; a war of attrition and trenches that will mark the territory. In 1918, the German offensives and counter-offensives launched during the 2nd battle of the Marne left many cemeteries and necropolises behind them, testifying for the violence of the fighting.

Deeply scarred by the war, the territory of the natural regional Park counts 11 military cemeteries that keep in memory the scene of the 14-18 war. 3 of the largest necropolises can be visited in the villages of Bligny and Marfaux. The remains of 1,129 British soldiers, 4,417 German soldiers and 3,440 Italian fighters are buried there with no hierarchical distinction. More than 80 war memorials have been erected in the form of engraved plaques or obelisks, sometimes with sculpted figures. The churches of Saint-Imoges and Ville-en-Selve even hold a stained glass memorial.

Military cemetery of Bligny ©PNRMR

On the heights of Montagne de Reims slopes, some bunkers built during the war still dominate the skyline. Opposite the front line of the 1st World War, the villages of Verzy and Verzenay offer the perfect promontory to observe the enemy. It was at Mount-Sinaï, or at Verzenay Mill that the Allies installed their observatories. The military observatory of Mount-Sinaï, in the forest of Verzy, was at the centre of the major observation device installed. Mount Sinaï and its bunkers are classified today as Historical Monuments.

Military observatory of the Mount Sinaï ©PNRMR

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Sparkling heritage

In this land with cold and chalky soils, the man managed to shape a unique heritage giving birth to a wine famous worldwide, a symbol of feasts and celebrations.

The Romans planted the first vine stocks, and the bishops, especially the archbishop of Reims, and the great abbeys of the region have designed the know-how of wine-making and extended the fame of the Champagne vineyard as from the Middle-Ages.

At the 17th century, the legendary Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon, a cellar master of the Hautvillers abbey, is at the origin of the sparkling wine birth by introducing the Champagne method. The boom of Champagne continued in the 18th and 19th centuries when famous Houses gained international reputation.

Today, 30,000 people work in the Champagne industry, 15,800 wine-makers and 300 Houses of Champagne produce more than 300 million bottles each year.

The Park counts more than 10, 000 hectares of vines classified AOC Champagne. Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay are the main grape varieties authorized in Champagne area. Each one is different by its leaves, its berries and of course its taste closely linked to the subsoil, relief, climate and exposure.

Wine-making exploitation of Moët et Chandon ©PNRMRCumières ©PNRMRLoge de vigne ©PNRMR

Built in brick, timber or stone, the vine lodges are part of the Champagne landscape. Place of shelter and storage, today lodges have lost their uses to the benefit of more modern work techniques. However, for many wine-makers such lodges evoke a childhood memory, a family meal, some meetings and shares.

In the villages, traditional wine-presses in wood and vaulted cellars are many testimonies of a flourishing and historic activity. Whether they belong to cooperatives or to great Houses of Champagne, the voluminous contemporary buildings dedicated to the making and storage of wines have to be strictly integrated into the landscape, for keeping both a precious cultural heritage and the visual quality of landscapes.

In 2016, the exceptional quality of winegrowing landscapes participated to the listing of « Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars » to UNESCO’s World Heritage.

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