The Via Francigena runs through the champagne country of the Marne department for a distance of 142km, passing Reims then Chalons; for the latter part there is an alternative route of 74km. This section is well marked.

Marne is in the greater Paris basin, so quite low-lying and rising towards the east, where Mount Sinai forms the highest point (at only 283m). The departement has a chalky plain in the east and woodland to the west. It has several military training camps, mainly on the chalky plateau, which is also the champagne producing area. Marne’s capital is the famous city of Reims, and from there, the Via Francigena runs through the champagne country. UNESCO recognizes the champagne growing history as a Patrimonie Mondiale. You have the opportunity to tour vineyards and taste champagne along your walk, before approaching forests again. This part of the route is also known as GR145 and is waymarked by the FFRP. The tourism authority for the route is the Comite regionale du tourisme de Champagne Ardenne.

History of Marne

This area of France was where Julius Caesar ran into greatest resistance and he praised the fighters, known as the Belgians. Temples to Mars, Jupiter and Apollo commemorated Roman victories. Later Marne became the heart of Charlemagne’s empire but authority was devolved to local counts of Reims and bishops of Chalons and later the counts of Champagne. The area was involved in the 100 years war and religious wars during the reformation. During Napoleon’s wars, Marne was occupied by Austrian troops, but in 1870, it was able to resist the Prussian invasion.

A defensive military line served by many railway lines was formed across the department before the first world war, but this did not save France from invasion. Several major battles were fought in the Champagne area, with the result of a huge area of degraded land polluted by discarded weapons. For years this was closed off to the public and many villages within the area disappeared; now it forms military camps.

The second war resulted in almost immediate occupation, lasting almost 5 years. During this time, the Jewish population was mostly interned in several camps in the province. After the war, a return to champagne production revived the area.

Interesting Places in Marne


The history of Reims dates back 2000 years and Kings of France were once crowned in the 13th C cathedral, which has superb doorways and a rose window. The abbey Saint Remi is also superb, and a museum occupies a Benedictine abbey. After the 1st World War, the town was reconstructed with a range of art nouveau and art deco buildings, which complement the ancient structures.


Epernay is the capital of Champagne, with the 15th century chateaux of the famous champagne producers. Visits to the magnificent chateaux and tastings are the highlight.


A champagne producing town with a ‘lighthouse’ housing a champagne museum. Also a nearby hilltop windmill.

Chalons en Champagne

The church and cloister museum of Notre Dame en Vaux is a world heritage site; the old city has many superb houses and the cathedral, although partly rebuilt, is partly 12th C.


Hautvilliers is the home of Dom Perignon champagne. The village name means high village, and the slopes around the chateau are covered with champagne vines.

Vitry le Francois

Rebuilt completely by King Francois 1, now on a railway and canal junctions, the town contains several historical buildings.


A superb wooden church of the 16th C is the centerpiece of the village; there are others and timbered houses nearby.

Lac du Der Chantecoq

This lake has cranes, storks, swans and other wildfowl in abundance, especially on migration, as well as watersports.


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