Rouen, France

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Continuing on our way to the Normandy coast, we stopped in the charming city of Rouen. This 2,000 year old city mixes Gothic architecture, half-timbered houses, and contemporary bustle like no place in France.

We started our sightseeing at the modern Joan of Arc Church. 
Completed in 1979, this church is a tribute to the patron saint of France, Joan of Arc, and feels Scandinavian inside and out, which makes sense considering Normandy's Nordic heritage. 
Gorgeous sixteenth-century widows that were salvaged from a church lost during WWII were incorporated into the design. A ship's-hull style vaulting and sweeping wood ceiling soar over curving pews. 
Out in Place du Vieux Marché, a market square fronted by half-timbered buildings, was a street market and fair. We grabbed some delicious frites, sausages, and roasted potatoes to munch on. Delish.
The produce market is a covered portion of the square and displayed the local bounty.

Detail of some old half-timbering.
Because the local stone was a poor-quality chalky limestone and local oak was plentiful, half-timbered buildings became a Rouen specialty from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Oak beams provided the structural skeleton of the building which was then filled in with a mix of clay, straw, pebbles, and whatever else was available.
Half-timbered in full greyscale.
A flower garden near the church and market square is the spot where Rouen used to publicly punish and execute people. In 1431, 19 year old Joan of Arc was burned at this same site.
A small plaque commemorates the area where Joan was executed by the English.
Jane being grumpy. Sorry, girlie!
This impressive Renaissance clock, known was le Gros Horloge, was built in 1528 and decorates a former city hall. The clock doesn't have a minute hand. In the sixteenth century, an hour hand offered sufficient precision. 
Looking under the arch towards the cathedral.

This massive church, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, is a landmark of art history. Monet painted over 30 studies of this facade at various times of day studying light, shadow, and color. 
The size of this cathedral reflects Rouen's former importance. Until the 1700s, Rouen was the second-largest city in France and was extremely wealthy from its wool trade and booming port.
The interior has a classic Gothic nave with four stories of pointed arch arcades.
Looking through an iron gate to behind the altar.
Many portions of the exterior have been thoroughly cleaned in recent years so they gleam like they did when they were first carved.
Then it was on to St. Maclou Church down the Rue St. Romain.
Fountain with little putti peeing. Hopefully they don't cross streams. | Awesome doors.
More half-timbered beauties.
Love. This. Sign.
Next we stepped into the Aître St. Maclou plague cemetery. During the great plagues of the middle ages, as many as two-thirds of the people in this parish died. For the decimated community, dealing with the corpses was an overwhelming task so this half-timbered courtyard was a mass grave and an ossuary were the bodies were interred.
I'll spare you the details of the process. 
Ghoulish carvings of gravediggers' tools, skulls, and crossbones.
And on that happy note, it was time to continue on.
Love the higgledy-piggledy buildings.
The Palace of Justice is a flamboyantly Gothic building that gleams after years of cleaning removed the grime that once covered it. This is the former home of Normandy's parliament.
It seemed like every chance Chris had to stop and snag a baguette, he did. We snacked and enjoyed the ambience of the town, despite the rain (oh Europe), and then it was time to head to our next destination.
Our family in Rouen, France on Sunday October 16th 2016.
Next up: Honfleur!


  1. What a beautiful city! And thanks for not giving the grave details! LOL!! I don't have the stomach for that ;)

  2. What a truly beautiful city--thanks for sharing...that baguette looksyummy hugs, Julierose


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