About Rouen Castle
Rouen Castle was a fortified ducal and royal residence in the city of Rouen in Normandy. The original medieval castle was built by Philip II of France in the 13th century following his capture of the duchy from John I, Duke of Normandy and King of England.
Today, the castle’s donjon remains within the modern town and is open to the public.
Rouen Castle history
Located in a dominant position outside the medieval town to its north, Rouen Castle was built between 1204 and 1210. As the capital of the duchy of Normandy, Rouen Castle was the main seat of power, administration and politics in the duchy of Normandy for nearly 400 years.
Resultantly, the castle played a military role in the Hundred Years’ War, as the English royals of the Plantagenets and Lancaster families bitterly wrestled with the Kings of France and Anjou for the territories of Normandy and Aquitaine.
It was also at Rouen Castle that Joan of Arc was imprisoned in December 1430 and tried from 21 February to 23 May 1431. While Joan was held at the now-lost gatehouse called the Tour de la Pucelle, it was in the castle’s donjon, built in 1204, within which she was threatened with instruments of torture.
Several years later, King Edward IV of England was born at Rouen in 1442. The castle saw further conflict during the French Wars of Religion. Vulnerable to artillery like other medieval fortresses, all but the keep (now known as the Tour Jeanne d’Arc) was destroyed at the end of the 16th century under orders from Henry IV in 1591.
Reduced to its foundations, restoration to Rouen Castle began in the 1870s so that by World War Two, the tower’s pointed roof had to be camouflaged and was used as a bunker by occupying Germans.
Rouen Castle today
Open to the public, Rouen Castle’s donjon continues to stand within the modern town with its 12 foot-thick walls reaching 90 feet high. It is perhaps due to the castle’s association with France’s famed female saviour, Joan of Arc, that Rouen has survived so long, allowing visitors to cross the footbridge into the keep to explore the museum.
You can also join the ‘Hyper Escape Game’ from Rouen Dungeons, an virtual reality game that immerses you within the Hundred Years War. Within the game, you can tour the exhibition, touching and interacting with the objects.
Getting to Rouen Castle
Nestled within the centre of Rouen, the castle is just off the D938 main road through the city. It is easily reached via public transport: the Gare de Rouen train station has regular links to Dieppe, Caen, Paris, Amiens and Le Havre, and the light railway stops there too, just across the road from Rouen Castle.
As one of the great historic regions of France, Normandy is bursting with a number of stunning castles with equally compelling histories to match. Here's our pick of 10 of the best.