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Path: Photos > Photos > Cathedral Cities > Rouen
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The cathedral in Rouen is a remarkable view with its impressive Flamboyant Gothic west facade and towering spire. Unfortunately we had no luck on the day we visited: the choir with its side chapels and the ambulatory were closed for some works and we had to be content with the (rather plain) nave and the transept, which might explain why, apart from its exterior, we were not overly excited by what we saw.

But we will surely give it another try because we enjoyed the city of Rouen very much: the centre is very lively and full of attractive timber-framed houses, it is a pleasure to stroll through its streets. We visited two museums, the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, the latter displaying a collection of wrought ironwork in a disused church which we found most interesting.

As with many Gothic cathedrals in France, the one we see today has been rebuilt between 1145 and 1250 over the ruins of an earlier Romanesque cathedral. Major works were undertaken in the 15th century: the west front was reworked in Flamboyant Gothic style, a new tower (the Tour du Beurre on the right hand-side) was added and the height of the left one (the Tour Saint-Romain) was increased to match it. Other towers were added over the years, most notably the Tour Lanterne in 1876 with its spire towering at 151m, making Rouen the tallest cathedral in the world until 1880. The exterior has been thoroughly cleaned in 2015.
Close-up of the lacy Flamboyant Gothic architecture of the west front. Above the portals, the rose and gable are framed by 70 monumental statues dating from 1362 to 1421 and depicting saints, patriarchs, kings and other religious characters. This is a unique feature in France, reminiscent of English cathedrals. The west front of the cathedral with the tympanum of the central portal, the Flamboyant gable and the rose window. The central portal, also called Portail Notre-Dame is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Its tympanum depicts the tree of Jesse, the family tree of Jesus. The left portal called Portail Saint-Jean is dedicated to St John the Baptist. Its tympanum depicts the martyrdom of St John the Baptist. The lower register represents Salome dancing (she makes a handstand!) before King Herod (sitting at a table on the left). On the right John the Baptist is beheaded and his head presented on a platter. The upper register shows the burial of John the Baptist. Note the unusual and beautiful lace carvings of the arches above the tympanum. The space between the Tour Saint-Romain and the Tour du Beurre is bridged with seven arcades decorated with tracery. They rise to pierced gables topped by small statues. The Tour du Beurre (Butter tower) was so named because it was built thanks to the money collected by the clerics from parishioners “buying” the right to continue eating butter during Lent. Portal of the south transept called Portail de la Calende with Christ standing on the central pillar (15th century). The tympanum depicts the paschal mystery. The middle register shows scenes of the Passion. Below are Resurrection and Ascension while the Crucifixion is shown on the upper register. The chevet of the cathedral with the chapel of the Virgin topped by the statue of the Golden Virgin by Nicolas Quesnel (1541). The nave dates mostly from the 12th century. It is quite plain; built with a four-storey elevation, ten bays and two side aisles, its dimensions are H=28m/L=60m/W=24m. The main altar and the choir behind it. Unfortunately we could not go beyond because the whole choir, the side chapels and the ambulatory were closed for works the day we visited. We did not see many stained glass windows in the cathedral as most of them are located in the side chapels of the choir. Those two windows dating from around 1520 are in the chapel Saint-Joseph in the south transept and depict scenes of the life of saint Romain. Window depicting the Passion of Christ in the chapel Saint-Sever in the north side aisle of the nave. The nave again with view to the west rose and the cathedral organ. Staircase in the north transept built in Gothic style in 1471 and leading to the canons' library. Looking up the Tour Lanterne from the south side of the crossing. Timber-framed houses in the city centre. Rouen has about 2000 such houses on its territory which is amazing. We had a plan handed out by the tourist office and after a while became a bit jaded by their sheer number. The oldest ones (around hundred) have been built before the 16th century, some of them dating as far back as the 14th century. The people of Rouen have continued building such houses until the very end of the 19th century which explains why there are so many of them left in the city. The Gros Horloge is an astronomic clock located near the belfry. It is housed in a Renaissance building spanning the street below by means of a lowered arch (note the red coat of arms of the city of Rouen at its centre). The time is indicated by a single hand and a divinity associated with the day of the week appears on a triumphal chariot under the number VI. The Hotel de Bourgtheroulde near the Place du Marché. This Gothic mansion was designed in the 15th century to serve as a residence to Guillaume II le Roux, Lord Bourgtheroulde and member of the Exchequer of Normandy. It has been converted into a luxury hotel but we were able to enter the Renaissance style courtyard as there were no customers around. Renaissance bas-relief in the inner courtyard of the Hotel de Bourgtheroulde depicting the famous meeting between the French king François I and the English king Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The inner courtyard of Hotel de Bourgtheroulde with bas-reliefs illustrating the poem “The Great Triumphs” of Petrarch and some coats of arms below the gables. The Place du Marché. The “Vieux Logis” in Rue de la Rougemare near the chapel Saint-Louis. This three-storey house was built in 1898 and its facade is adorned with many wooden sculptures. Detail of a wooden sculpture of the house “Vieux Logis” with shields bearing the names of the owner (Charles Morel) and the architects. The <a target="_blank"  href="https://museelesecqdestournelles.fr/en/the-museum-6">Musée Le Secq des Tournelles</a> was a nice surprise. Located in a disused church it displays a collection of ironwork assembled by Jean-Louis-Henri Le Secq Des Tournelles (1818-1882), a painter who studied in Paris and Rome, and became one of the first photographers in France. In 1845 he was commissioned by Prosper Mérimée (then head of the historical monument department) to photograph church and monuments of France, an occupation which started his passion for ironwork. He was also lucky to be in Paris when the Baron Haussmann started his rebuilding of the city and could recover many ironwork fittings such as stairs, balconies or signs from buildings doomed to destruction. While in town we visited the <a target="_blank"  href="https://mbarouen.fr/en/the-museum-4">Musée des Beaux-Arts</a> and of course <a target="_blank"  href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rouen_Cathedral_(Monet_series)">paintings of the cathedral by Monet</a> are not to be missed. This one is named “Overall View of Rouen” and was painted in 1892. Honestly we much preferred this portrait of a lady by <a target="_blank"  href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Hagborg">August Wilhelm Nikolaus Hagborg</a> (1852-1921) The abbey church of Saint-Ouen. Although the building of the Gothic church started in 1318, the nave was only finished in 1537. Its west front was finalised between 1845 and 1852 in neo-Gothic style with the cathedral of Cologne as a model. It is now disused and serves as an exhibition centre. The east rose of the abbey church of Saint-Ouen. The abbey church of Saint-Ouen, view of the choir. The chevet of the abbey church of Saint-Ouen with the bell-tower in Flamboyant Gothic style (82m high). The Aître de Saint-Maclou. This nice building with its inner courtyard near the church of Saint-Maclou in the centre of town is quite unusual. Its origins date back to the Black Death of 1348 when the area was used as a cemetery. When a second epidemic hit the town in the 16th century it was decided to increase its capacity by building two-storey galleries around it, the upper ones being used as an ossuary while the lower ones were used as a school for poor children. The bones in the upper galleries were removed in 1705 and the upper galleries enhanced to increase the school capacity (it could accommodate 700 to 800 children in the 18th century). Besides the school, the grounds housed also a weaving factory in 1768, then a weapon factory cum community club in 1793. The city of Rouen finally bought the semi-ruined buildings in 1927 and after renovation offered them to the École des Beaux-Arts as a temporary school after their own building was destroyed by fire. They stayed there from 1940 to 2014. After another campaign of restoration, the compound is now ready for a new life: artist galleries and restaurants were setting up shop while we were there. The Aître de Saint-Maclou has a decoration reminding of its original use: the wooden beams are carved with skulls, bones, faces with closed eyes and swords. Axes crossed with shovels such as on this picture are ready to bury the dead. The base of the stone pillars were featuring characters performing a dance of death, unfortunately all of them are now heavily damaged. Close-up of a wooden carving in the Aître de Saint-Maclou. Glimpse of the church of Saint-Maclou in the old town. The church of Saint-Maclou is another example of Flamboyant Gothic architecture and was built between 1437 and 1517. Its west facade has five portals adorned with superb wooden doors dating from the Renaissance. The central portal of the west front of the church of Saint-Maclou. Its tympanum depicts the Last Judgement, note the superb wooden doors.

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$updated from: Cathedral Cities.htxt Mon 03 May 2021 16:08:34 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$