The Cathedral of Notre-Dame is a glorious, flamboyant, Gothic extravaganza. Started in 1200 then reconstructed after a fire, it was rebuilt again in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Stand outside to look at the west entrance and you’re overwhelmed by the carving and pinnacles and the sight of two totally different towers. A carving of Richard Lionheart of 1199 on the left tower is a reminder of how close the histories of England and France were in the Middle Ages. The façade may look familiar even if you’ve not seen it before; Claude Monet used it for a series of 28 paintings to show the different effects of light at varying times of the day.
The interior is elegantly simple, the soaring columns taking your eye upwards. And it’s full of treasures: the heart of Charles V is preserved in a coffer in the 11th-century crypt; the ambulatory around the choir has Richard Lionheart, who loved Rouen so much that he requested that his heart stay here in the cathedral choir; Henry, the second son of Henry 11 of England, and William Longsword, Duke of Normandy and son of Rollo (14th century) are also buried here. Five lovely, 13th-century stained-glass windows cast their luminous colors over the walls and floors. There’s also a chapel dedicated to Joan of Arc who was burned here in Rouen in 1431.
Along one side you’ll see the old statues of the Apostles that were originally on the outside, but have been so corroded due to acid rain that they’re being replaced. Many of them are identified by the symbols they carry like St. Peter who has the keys to heaven in his hand. It's a graphic reminder that in a time when few people could read, this was how the congregation learnt the stories.
Notre-Dame Cathedral, Rouen, Normandy
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 35 71 71 60
Open daily except Monday morning
Closed January 1st, May 1st, May 8th, November 11th
25 pl de la Cathedrale
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 32 08 32 40
Open May to September
Monday to Saturday 9am–7pm
Sundays and public holidays from 9:30am-12:30pm & 2-6pm
October to April
Daily 9:30am-12:30pm & 1:30-6pm
Closed Jan 1st, May 1st, Nov 11th, December 25th