Supported by Azerbaijan`s embassy in Paris, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has launched a series of events aimed at promoting the Azerbaijani culture across France.
A first event in the series took place in Reims on October 19. Azerbaijan`s first lady, president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva attended the event.
Reims, a city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, lies 129 km (80 mi) east-northeast of Paris. Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire.
Reims played a prominent ceremonial role in French monarchical history as the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France. The Cathedral of Reims played the same role in France as Westminster Abbey has in the United Kingdom. It housed the Holy Ampulla (Sainte Ampoule) containing the Saint Chrême (chrism), allegedly brought by a white dove (the Holy Spirit) at the baptism of Clovis in 496. It was used for the anointing, the most important part of the coronation of French kings.
Reims functions as a subprefecture of the department of Marne, in the administrative region of Champagne-Ardenne. Although Reims is by far the largest commune in both its region and department, Châlons-en-Champagne is the capital and prefecture of both.
First lady Mehriban Aliyeva met the city`s mayor Adeline Hazan to thank her for her support of the organization of the Azerbaijan-related events in Reims. Mrs. Aliyeva told the Reims Mayor that similar events would be arranged in other cities and regions of France as well.
Mrs. Hazan said the events to promote the Azerbaijani culture provoked great interest among Reims` population, adding she believes the exhibition and the concert would be a success.
Mrs. Aliyeva signed the guest book of the Office of Reims` Mayor.***
The Azerbaijani first lady toured several historical landmarks as part of her visit to Reims.
Mehriban Aliyeva first visited Reims Cathedral, where the kings of France were once crowned. t replaces an older church, destroyed by a fire in 1211, which was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had been erected on the site of the Roman baths. As the cathedral it remains the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims.
A major site for tourism in the Champagne region, it received half a million visitors in 2006. The interior of the cathedral is 138.75 m (about 455 ft) long, 30 m (approx. 98 feet) wide in the nave, and 38 m (about 125 feet) high in the centre. It comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.***
The president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation then viewed Saint Remi Basilica, an easy one-mile walk from the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Reims. The basilica almost approaches the cathedral in size. Adjacent to the basilica stands an important abbey, formerly known as the Royal Abbey of St Remi. The abbey sought to trace its heritage back to St Remi, while the present abbey building dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Saint Remi Basilica dates from the 11th, 12th, 13th and 15th centuries. Most of the construction of the church finished in the 11th century, with additions made later. The nave and transepts, Romanesque in style, date mainly from the earliest, the façade of the south transept from the latest of those periods, the choir and apse chapels from the 12th and 13th centuries.
The 17th and 19th centuries saw further additions. The building suffered greatly in World War I, and the meticulous restoration work of architect Henri Deneux rebuilt it from its ruins over the following 40 years. As of 2009 it remains the seat of an active Catholic parish holding regular worship services and welcoming pilgrims. It has been classified as an historical monument since 1841 and is one of the pinnacles of the history of art and of the history of France.
On October 19 Reims hosted the launch of “Cultural values of Azerbaijan, the pearl of the Caucasus” exhibition.
Speaking to the opening ceremony, the Azerbaijani first lady said the exhibition “will contribute to friendship and mutual respect between our countries”.
“Azerbaijan has historically been the bridge between the East and the West. Azerbaijan was a first Muslim country in the East to grant women suffrage, to build a democratic republic, to open a school for girls, and establish opera and ballet,” she added.
Reims` Mayor praised the Azerbaijan-France cooperation.
“We have great respect towards Azerbaijan`s cultural richness. The exhibition displays ancient Azerbaijani historical and cultural exhibits, including carpets, national clothing, and national musical instruments.***
The same day the Reims Conservatory hosted a concert by the Azerbaijani State Chamber Orchestra conducted by People`s Artist Teymur Goychayev.