Rouen Tourist Attractions
Rouen lies northwest of Paris on the lower Seine, some 130km/80mi above its mouth. The ancient capital of Normandy, it is now chief town of the Haute-Normandie region, the see of an archbishop, France's largest river port and one of its largest seaports, situated at the highest point on the river navigable by seagoing vessels. It is also a major center of the cotton industry.
In spite of the heavy destruction it suffered during the Second World War, Rouen is still one of the great tourist centers of northern France, with magnificent Gothic churches and richly stocked museums which fully justify its style of "museum city" (ville musée).
The dramatist Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) and the novelist Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) were born in Rouen.
The Gallic town known to the Romans as Rotomagus, capital of the Veliocasses, flourished under Roman rule and became the see of a bishop in 260. In the ninth C. it was devastated several times by Norsemen from Denmark, whose leader Rollo became the first Duke of Normandy as Robert I in 911. After Duke William of Normandy became king of England in 1066 Rouen, along with the rest of Normandy, became an English possession, and remained under English rule until 1204. During the Hundred Years' War, in 1419, it was taken by Henry V after a six months' siege. Here in 1431 Joan of Arc was tried and burned at the stake. The town was recaptured by Charles VII of France in 1449, and thereafter it prospered until the outbreak of the wars of religion. The bitter fighting between Catholics and Calvinists in the 16th and 17th centuries hampered the development of the town stimulated by the rise of the textile industry, and after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 it lost more than half its population. Prosperity began to return only in the 18th C. with the revival of the textile industry.
Place du Vieux Marché
Ste Jeanne d'Arc
Musée Jeanne d'Arc
Hôtel de Bourgtheroulde
To the south of the Place du Marché stands the Hotêl de Bourgtheroulde, a splendid mansion built between 1486 and 1531 for Guillaume Le Roux, with a beautiiful courtyard and fine relief ornament.
Rue du Gros Horloge
From the southeast corner of the Place du Vieux Marché Rue du Gros Horloge leads to the Cathedral. Half way along it passes through the Tour du Gros-Horloge, a defensive tower built in 1389-98 (clock dates from 1889), adjoining which is a Renaissance pavilion.
Palais de Justice
The Palais de Justice (at the end of the pedestrian zone, a little to the north of the Gros Horloge) is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Once the meeting-place of the Parlement (Exhiquier) of Normandie, it was built by Roulland Le Roux in 1508-1509, badly damaged in 1944 and subsequently restored.
Eglise St Maclou
East of the cathedral, stands the Late Gothic church of St-Maclou (1437-1521), with a high tower over the crossing added in 1868. On the twin-towered west front with its magnificent porch are two doors with fine wood carvings of Biblical scenes, probably by Jean Goujon.
Just north of the church, at 184-186 Rue Martainville, is the Aître St-Maclou, a medieval charnel-house, with fine wooden galleried buildings (16th-17th C.) round the courtyard.
The church of St-Ouen is an outstanding example of Late Gothic architecture. The main structure was built between 1318 and 1339; the west doorway and the two towers date from 1846-1851. Over the crossing is a magnificent tower, the pinnacled topmost section of which (1490-1515) is known as the "Crown of Normandy". In the south transept can be seen the Portail des Marmouses, with representations of the Death and Assumption of the Virgin.
In the harmoniously proportioned interior (134 m/440ft long, 26 m/85ft wide - 42 m/138ft wide in the transept - and 32.5 m/107ft high) are 135 windows, some with 15th and 16th C. stained glass, a beautiful choir screen (1738-1747) and a famous organ in an organ-loft of 1630.
On the Place du Général du Gaulle, with an equestrian statue of Napoleon I (1865) stands the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), and behind it are the old abbey gardens, now a municipal park.
Fierte St Romain
To the south of the Cathedral, extending to the banks of the Seine, is a district of modern flats. The only remnant of the old town here is the Fierte St Roman (near the old market halls), a unique Renaissance building of 1542.
The richly decorated church of St-Romain (17th-18th C.) lies to the east of the Gare Rive Droite (railroad station). West of the station stands the neo-Romanesque church of St-Gervais (1868-1876), with a fourth C. crypt, a relic of an earlier church, under the choir. The site was formerly occupied by a priory in which William the Conqueror died in 1087.
Rue Jeanne d'Arc
Rue Jeanne-d'Arc was driven through the old town in 1860, and today provides the main link road between the north and south of the city. In Rue du Donjon, a small side road, stands the the Tour Jeanne d'Arc, all that remains of a castle built by Philippe Auguste in 1207. In this tower Joan of Arc was brought before her judges and tortured in 1431. To the west of Rue Jeanne-d'Arc is the 16th C. church of St-Patrice, with fine stained glass (1538-1625). Gustave Flaubert was born in the Hôtel-Dieu, in the west of the city, which now houses the Musée Flaubert and also a Museum of Medical History.
Côte Ste Catherine
Jardin des Plantes
Musée des Beaux-Arts
On the east side of the tree-planted Square Verdrel is the Musée des Beaux-Arts, one of the finest provincial museums in France, with a notable collection of 16th to 20th C. pictures, including works by David, Rubens, Veronese, Caravaggio, Ribera, Velázquez, Clouet, Poussin, Fragonard, Ingres, Géricault, Delacroix, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Dufy, Duchamp, Soulage and Dubuffet.