Rouen: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Published: October 29, 2022

Joan of Arc is also an important figure in the history of Rouen. While Orléans celebrates her first military victory, Rouen commemorates her martyrdom when she was burned alive. Sometimes referred to as a distant suburb of Paris, Rouen was a major river port on the way to rich England. It is now the capital of Normandy.

01. Joan of Arc Tower

This large tower, a little way from the city centre, is what remains of the 13th century fortifications. It was the keep of the castle protecting the town. The trial of Joan of Arc took place in this castle in 1431. The tower can be visited, with three superimposed rooms under a reconstructed attic.

02. Joan of Arc’s Stake

After her sentence, Joan of Arc was burnt alive in public on the Place du Vieux-Marché. The site of the stake is marked by a high cross, encouraging meditation, and a modern church has been built there, recalling the religious inspiration that guided Joan’s actions. A new trial rehabilitated her in 1456, the Catholic Church made her a saint in the 20th century.

03. Gros-Horloge

A Renaissance archway spans the street, bearing the large golden clock installed in 1410, and there is always a small crowd of visitors at its base. This Gros-Horloge and its street of half-timbered houses is one of the most typical images of Rouen. There is a small museum that can be visited, but the main image remains this picturesque arch.

04. Cathedral

Since the Middle Ages, Rouen Cathedral has been a huge construction site in constant evolution. The two side towers preceded the three portals that later formed the façade. Today, instead of pilgrims, it is tourists who admire its jagged façade. In the summer heat, the nave remains cool and the visit continues inside.

05. Museum of Fine Arts

The museum occupies a large block from the end of the 19th century. The museum has a fine collection of sculptures and paintings, which allow to follow the evolution of these arts. The Impressionists are well represented, Normandy having been a field of experiment with its hazy skies and stubborn fogs. Monet’s view of the cathedral is the centrepiece.

06. Saint-Ouen Abbey Church

The vast proportions of the abbey church reflect the importance of the abbey, which dates back to the 8th century. It even owned land in Essex at a time when the Anglo-Norman nobility was expanding its domains on both sides of the Channel. Now a simple parish church, it plays a cultural role, notably through its concerts.

07. City Hall

Rouen’s City Hall is housed in the large 18th century building next to the church of Saint-Ouen. It was the monks’ dormitory which was confiscated during the Revolution, when all religious orders were dissolved. The interior was remodelled, following a fire in 1926 and bombing in 1944, to suit the needs of a municipal administration.

08. Court House

This is a large Gothic building dating from the late 15th century, originally designed to bring together the notables of Normandy in a sort of regional parliament. During work under the courtyard, a very old synagogue from the 12th century was discovered in 1976. Known as the Sublime House, after a Hebrew graffiti, it increases the interest of visiting the court.

09. Aître Saint-Maclou

The Aître Saint-Maclou is a former cemetery. In the 16th century it was surrounded by galleries used to store bones removed from old graves to create new ones. These buildings were reused many times as schools or workshops. Restored to its 1880s condition, The Aître has become a tourist attraction with a restaurant.

10. Old town

The old districts of Rouen have become particularly pleasant to visit. The old houses have been respected and restored, and the small streets are now pedestrianised. It is a pleasure to walk through them, going from one historical monument to another, they have been renovated and most of them are open to visitors, making for an interesting cultural weekend.

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  1. The weight of history fills this place. Hard to believe they used to burn “witches” at the stake, but superstition ran deep in that period. The churches look beautiful but also seem to need a bit of TLC to get rid of some grime. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was not intentional to follow the trail of Joan of Arc, but I found it funny when I realised it. The expansion of pedestrian streets is one of the things that has impressed me the most since my new stay in Europe. When I lived in Luxembourg I noticed it in Germany. Since then it has become more widespread in Europe, though Paris is lagging far behind.

      Liked by 1 person

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