The Cathedral is in the heart of the historic city. is a roman catholic gothic architecture cathedral and is the seat of the Archbishop of Rouen And Normandy.. The building contains the tomb of Richard the Lionheart. Entrance is free to the cathedral..Paintings by Monet s are famous of the front of Rouen cathedral.
Sailing throughout Normandy on the Uniworld Baroness, the crew urged us to go to the Cathedral and see the Light Show at 10pm. I had visions of cheesy strobe lights and disco balls and choir background music. A group of us made our way to the beautiful lit Cathedral and at 10pm, the lights vanished into complete darkness as the bells chimed. After anticipation of the complete darkness for a few moments, the Cathedral transformed. I have never seen a light/graphics show so amazing. I actually heard *gasps* as the Church caught on fire, turned into moasic tiles, beautiful gardens, and ponds...all with technology. We were all standing in awe for 25 minutes - completely taken by surprise at the amazing show in front of us. The unexpected treat was definitely one of the highlights of my trip!
The facade of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Rouen has been immortalised in at least 30 paintings by Monet and as you stand in the square in front (Place de la Cathédrale) and gaze up at the elaborate frontage you can see why the artist was so captivated by this building.
There is an obviously lack of symmetry between the two towers of the cathedral. The North tower (to the left if you are facing the front of the cathedral) is the Tour St Romain and is in an austere early gothic style in line with it's 12th century origin. The South tower (to the right) is the Tour de Buerre or Butter Tower which is much more flamboyant in style, reflecting it's later origin. It was built between 1485 and 1506 and was paid for by donations from members of the congregation in exchange for being allowed to eat butter during lent!
The statues around the doors are of prophets and patriarchs. The spire is actually early 19th century as the previous one was destroyed by lightning.
The inside of the cathedral is almost as impressive and seems very ordered. Visiting early in the morning (and presumably also late in the day) allows you to see the stained glass windows at their best as the colours come alive across the interior.
Notable features inside are the Chapelle de Ste-Jeanne (Chapel of Joan of Arc) which has a post war statue of Joan tied to the stake and at the bottom of a window above and to the right of the statue is an interesting inscription: "from the English in homage". Interesting considering it was we English who executed her.
Reinforcing the English connection is the presence of a tomb of Richard I (the Lionheart). I say a tomb because actually only his heart is buried here, the rest is at Fontevraud Abbey in the Loire. Also to be found buried here is Richard's 7-greats grandfather, Rollo, the first Duke of Normandy who was a Viking raider who conquered Normandy from the French king Charles the Simple.
Entry to the cathedral is free, although donations are welcomed, and photography is allowed. Opening hours are 7.30am to 12 noon and 2pm to 6pm Tues to Sat, 8am to 6pm on Sunday and 2pm to 6pm on Monday.
If you've seen Monet's paintings of the Cathedral in Rouen at the Musée d'Orsay, a visit to the cathedral will be a very special experience for you. You can revisit it at various times of the day and see what the lighting is like to get an idea of Monet's fascination.
There are a couple Monet paintings in the Beaux Arts Museum in Rouen so you may want to visit that too.
In the Lady Chapel are fine stained glass windows and two elaborate tombs. On the right wall is that of the Cardinals of Amboise (both first names Georges) , both are kneeling. The one on the right is the nephew of the other.They were carved between 1515-25. The Cardinal Virtues are there with them as well as Theological ones. and more symbols in the background. On the opposite wall is the tomb of Louis de Breze, husband of Diane de Poitiers who is seen weeping at his head (the Virgin is at his feet). His effigy on horseback looks a bit shrunken in size. The lower part is said to have been by Jean Goujon who was too fine a sculptor to have done the top. At the Altar is an Adoration by Philippe de Champaigne. In the ambulatory are 13C effigies (gisants) of William Longsword, Richard I (Lionheart), among others.
Not to be missed are the transepts especially the North one. Here we find a Rose window with 14C glass (restored)., also there is a charming Renaissance door with a fancy gable and two flights of stairs. This is the Booksellers’ Stairway , the work of Guillame Pontis.
The chancel is spacious and light. It is three levelled unlike the nave but is of 13C Rayonnant style. There is an ambulatory separated by graceful columns which have circular capitals with plant-like structures and some heads at their tops. The arches are very high and pointed. The high altar is a marble slab backed by a crucifix in gilded lead with a tormented Christ upon it(Clodion 18C). There is an ambulatory and beyond it a Lady Chapel and two others. There are transept chapels as well (one to Ste. Jeanne d’Arc). There are tombs in the ambulatory and in the Lady Chapel (a separate Tip).
The nave is tall as are its arcades. In addition it is 4-levelled with tribune, triforium and traceried tall clerestory windows. This leads to very tall aisles.The transept crossing is topped by a very tall lanterned tower (167 feet to its keystone) which bears a tall cast-iron spire above that. The tower is supported by massive piers.
Along the North and South sides of the church are other famous doorways. On the North is the Booksellers’ Door from 1300 and on the South the La Calende Door near where the greatest of the WWII damage occurred. to the nave.(some damage was not repaired in 1988). There is a tall cast-iron spire on the lantern tower at the central crossing that can be seen from afar, It replaced a wooden one in 1822 when it was struck by lightning.
Although begun in 1201, the west facade is Flamboyant Gothic. It was not finished until 1514 with two dissimilar towers and a richly decorated main doorway. The left (N) tower is Romanesque 12C, from the previous cathedral which burned down at that time. Work on the right tower stopped in 1514 without a spire.(called the Butter Tower). There were two levels of statues of Apostles and Prophets around the gabled central door but almost all were destroyed during the Revolution. However the Tympanum of the Tree of Jesse and the celestial archivolts were out of reach and survive.
Inside the cathedrale notre-Dame de Rouen, a series of old graves shows the history of Normandy. Normandy was actually a colony of the Vikings (Normans), that usually only "visited" foreign towns (these visits excisted out of plundering, raping and burning down everything). It was Rollo that became the first king of Normandy and he turned to Christianity in the 10th century. His grave can be found in the cathedral, as well as the grave of his son. Furthermore, almost all bishops and cardinals of Rouen (also an important district capitol in religious sense) are buried in Notre-Dame de Rouen. Even a few saints can be found here. The oldest gravemarkers are dating back from the 3th century! The last is from 2004. A true journey through history.
In the former Tip I showed the outside, but the inside of this catehdral is a true domain of God. When you stand in the middle of the ship, the space around you is overwhelming. The height of the roof makes your head spin and the lights fall in beautifully from all the windows around you. Some of them are stained windows that are extremely colourful and representing parts of the bible, as well as historical events of Normandy. Many statues, paintings and other decorations make you want to walk around several hours in the Notre-Dame de Rouen. The church holds a treasury and a small museum, but in my next Tip I will especially emphasis the old graves in the church.