More impressive than Rouen's Notre Dame Cathedral is, in my opinion, the Abbey Church of St Ouen. It's also HUGE!
This grand old church, built in the Norman Gothic style, was started in 1318. The hundred years war interrupted the work and it wasn't completed until the 15th century. The church was originally part of the benedictine abbey dedicated to St Ouen which had existed since at least the 7th century (it was originally dedicated to St Peter until the body of St Ouen, Bishop of Rouen, was buried here in 678 and the dedication was changed).
The grimy outside could do with a good clean as many of Rouen's other mediæval churches have had in recent years, but there is no disguising the masterpiece of architecture that is here. Inside is so much more impressive. It's relatively simple in terms of decoration but this allows the lines and scale of the construction to show. The vast space inside, the thin pillars and soaring arches. The stained glass windows are fantastic.
During my visit there was an exhibition of modern art at the Eastern end of the nave. I don't know if this was exceptional or normal, but it made an excellent space to show off art.
Entry is free (donations welcome) and the church is open 10am to 12 noon and 2pm to 5.30pm Tues, Weds, Thurs, Sat and Sun. It appears to be closed Monday and Friday as far as I could make out from my dreadful french (the opening hours are displayed outside only in french).
The entrance is not through any of the 3 grand portals at the front (west) of the church, but through a more modest (but still fairly grand) door from the park on the Southern side of the church. The door is kept shut and so it looks very closed, just try giving it a push.
colossal ,wonderful church just up Republique from the Seine, and near the city hall or Hotel de Ville of Rouen, wonderful walk well worth it.
built from the 1300's it has a wonderful organ one of the most important in France, the size of it thus is great, and the area too, a bit from the center but worth the walk and enjoy Rouen
We took the little tourist train ride and were delighted by both the Abbey Church of St. Ouen and the lovely park surrounding it. As soon as the train tour finished, we hopped off and walked quickly back to St. Ouen to see the inside of the church. It is breathtaking, light and stained glass and it lifts you up to the sky. Just amazing.
The long interior is three leveled with a tall arcade. It leads to an elaborate open altar area closed off by statues and a fine 18C grille. At the west end is an organ by Cavalle-Coll considered by experts to possibly be the best one in France (we did not hear it). There is an elaborate carved canopy over the pulpit and in one chapel the effigy tomb of what we thought was the church’s architect (of about 1440) Alexandre de Berneval.
The Marmousets Door is an elaborate facade of the transept. Starting at the bottom there is a crocketed arch behind which recessing archevolts hold a tympanum and a trumeau with double doors. Above two traceried windows is a large Rose Window capped by a tall traceried gable window, all surrounded by pinnacles. There are balustrades at this level and a row of statues of the Kings and Queens of Judah. Peeking out above this is the top of the central crossing tower which is capped by a ducal crown (“the crowned tower”).
The Abbey Church of St.-Ouen was begun in the early 14C. That century was notable for its depopulation and technical progress leading to high wages for labor and extreme wealth and power for religious communities. The Benedictines decided to build a church that was bigger and taller than the cathedral (137m long, 33m high, with a central spire 82 m high). The west facade has 3 gabled doorways (it was competing with the central door of the cathedral being built at the same time) with a fine Rose window. The apsidal end is stubby with only 3 ungainly chapels seen but the view of the flying buttresses is worth it. In the 19C the abbey grounds were appropriated for civic uses. Much of the Abbey grounds and buildings have been adapted to present day civic uses: the Hotel de Ville is one of them and there is a park behind it and the church. Another lavish aspect is the South transept door (covered in a separate Tip), the Marmousets (Urchins) Door.
Already in the seventh century, Rouen allowed the Benedictin order to built an abbey in it's territory. The abbey started out in the year 750 and thrived well. The magnificent abbey church that you see now was constructed between 1318 and 1549 and maybe not as large and high as the cathedral, but definately as beautiful in gothic experience. The revolution was the beginning of the end of the abbey. The last monchs left the abbey in 1790 and only ten years later the abbey's main building became the cityhall (Hotel de Ville) of Rouen (see separate Tip). The abbey church of Saint Ouen is equally wonderful as the cathedral, but stands in a somewhat more open area. In this, one can enjoy a complete walk around the church to enjoy the gothic works to the fullest. In this green park, many students study in their books, discuss some topics or play games in the grass.
St. Ouen’s Abbey was once one of the most powerful Benedictine monasteries in the Normandy region. After the French Revoution the City Hall was established in the monks dormitory. Situated next to the City Hall, the abbey church is often mistaken for the cathedral owing to its majestic proportions. 137 meters long with vaults that reach 33 meters in height.
Walking along the right side of the church you arrive in the ancient garden of the abbay. Here you can see the right transept with the gateway of the Marmousets built in the 13th century. Very interesting is the apse with the chapels all around it.
The interior of the church of Saint-Ouen has got three naves with stained glass windows made in the 14th century. I'm sorry but I have no photos of the interior of this church because when I was there (on Monday) it was closed!!!
The fantastic church of Saint-Ouen is wonderful example of Gothic Rayonnant architecture. The building of the church started in 1318 and finished in the 15th century. The facade was created in the 18th century. The church is very big: 134 meters long and 26 meters tall in the central nave.
Rouen is small and in no time, you'll have the feeling it is wall-to-wall CHURCHES. "Enough with the churches!" you exclaim. "I am truly churched out now!" Do not worry, there's a really cool reason to explore Eglise St Ouen here...brilliant little winged demons, carrying off the unwise and the unwary...!
Rouen has cultural riches beyond belief. One would think one cathedral (Notre Dame) would be enough. But no, before we even got to that church, we came across St. Ouen, a gothic church of cathedral like proportions.
The 19th century organ is amongst the largest in France. There is 14th century stained glass.
The building started in 1318, slackened during the Hundred Years War and was finished in the 15th century.
The abbey church of Saint-Ouen
Built between the XIVth and the XVIth centuries, this is one of the most beautiful gothic monuments in France.