The ‘City of a Hundred Bells’, Rouen, is capital of the French region of Normandy. This 2,000-year-old port city on the River Seine, important in Roman times and the Middle Ages, is a unique city rich with monuments and museums.
Rouen’s narrow pedestrianised streets lined with tall, half-timber houses and a statue marking the spot where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake, is a pointer to the city’s dark history. Devastated by fire, the plague and bombs in the past, modern Rouen is now a vibrant cultural centre, and one of Normandy’s most engaging destinations.
The skyline is dominated by the spires of Cathédrale Notre-Dame, much-painted by Claude Monet. The Gothic churches of Saint-Maclou and Saint-Ouen are also must-see attractions, two of the best examples of gothic architecture in France and a important part of Rouen’s history. [ReadMore]
The city's beautiful botanical garden – Jardin de Plantes de Rouen, is also worth a visit. Its 600 different plant species and various gardens, including a rock garden, rose garden and a garden full of medicinal plants, are a joy to wander through.
Rouen Gothic Architecture
First built in the 12th century, rebuilt in the 13th century following a tragic fire and embellished in the 15th and 16th centuries, Rouen Cathedral is one of the largest and most impressive French Gothic masterpieces and was the subject of a series of canvasses painted by the famous painter Monet. Its nave has 11 bays all covered by a six-part vault and a lantern tower which gives the cathedral a truly unusual dimension. The tower on the right-hand side of the cathedral is called the Tour du Beurre (Butter Tower) as it was paid for by offerings from the faithful, who in return were permitted to eat butter during Lent.
Joan of Arc
Infamously burned at the stake in 1431, Joan of Arc is an important part of Rouen’s history and is widely considered a heroine of France. To commemorate Rouen’s most famous saint, the city erected a thoroughly modern church – Eglise Sainte Jeanne D’arc. Located at the Place du Vieux Marché, the very location of the martyrdom, the shape of the roof of the church and the small hallways evoke the flames of the stake.