There are thousands of angel statues throughout the world, but for me, one of the most stunningly beautiful has to be the Smiling Angel, also known as the Smile of Reims. This is a stone sculpture at the Cathedral of Reims, in France. It was originally carved in the mid 1200s. Her beaming smile certainly makes her stand out from the more serene expressions of the 'angels sculptures' that stand besides her.
Whenever, I have come across her online whilst doing 'angel research' for this blog, I can't help but smile back. I feel that this is an angel 'who has a sense of humour' and who encourages those who look upon her not to let life 'get you down' as there is 'always something to be 'grateful and happy for'.
And on the latter point, the Smiling Angel has her own interesting and inspiring story. During the dark days of World War 1, the Cathedral was unfortunately subjected to intense bombardment from German forces. During the attack it sustained around 300 shell bursts, which caused fires to rage inside the building and also hit several of the statues including the lovely Smiling Angel too. This resulted in the head of the carving being broken in several places after falling from a height of four meters.
However, all was not lost, as Abbot Thinot, who worked there collected the pieces and stored them for safe keeping in the cellars of the Archbishop of Reims. These were discovered the following year by the architect Max Sainsaulieu . He was shocked by the scale of the destruction and went to the French press. As a result the Smiling Angel became an icon for French wartime propaganda, as a symbol of "French culture destroyed by German barbarity".
Thankfully after the war, the original fragments were moulded and preserved in the Musée national des Monuments Français. And then the already famous sculpture was restored and finally put back in place in 1926, to once again take up her role of warmly welcoming visitors to the Cathedral with her slightly mischievous smile.
What do you feel when you look at the Smiling Angel? Please leave your thoughts in the comments box below.