Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire.
Rheims played a prominent ceremonial role in French monarchical history as the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France. Thus the Cathedral of Rheims (damaged by the Germans during the First World War but restored since) played the same role in France as Westminster Abbey did in England. 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, and used for the anointing, the most important part of the coronation of French kings.
Some sources regard Rheims as the capital of the province of Champagne, given its size as by far the largest city in the region.
The 2008 census recorded 188,078 inhabitants (Rémoises (feminine) and Rémois (masculine) in the city of Rheims proper (the commune), and 291,735 inhabitants in the whole metropolitan area.
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