Rouen Cathedral | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Rouen Cathedral

Rouen, Normandy, France

Luke Tomes

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Rouen Cathedral

Rouen Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church in Rouen, Normandy, France. It is the see of the Archbishop of Rouen, Primate of Normandy.

Rouen Cathedral history

Rouen Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen) is an historic gothic church, part of which dates back to 1145 and other aspects of which were reconstructed following a fire (and completed in 1250). Its famous façade, immortalised by the artist Claude Monet, was revamped in the fifteenth century.

Imposing and dominated by its vast, albeit uneven, towers, Rouen Cathedral at one point had the honour of being the tallest building in the world.

One of the most famous attractions inside Rouen Cathedral is the Chapelle de la Vierge or “Lady Chapel”, which houses numerous tombs ranging from Norman dukes and French monarchs to religious leaders. Amongst these tombs lies that of Richard the Lion Heart – or at least that of his heart.

Richard the Lion Heart (1157 – 1199) was King Richard I of England and was renowned as a brilliant military leader, hence him being known as the “lion heart”. His heart was buried in Rouen, while the rest of him is located in Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou, France.

The Second World War was not kind to the cathedral. In 1940, a fire damaged a part of the cathedral’s structural framework. In 1944, the monument would undergo even more significant damages. Allied bombings hit the cathedral, destroying its nave and rendering more fragile an already weakened edifice that struggled to hold up its spire whose columns were ruined.

Reinforcement work was quickly undertaken to prevent the spire from crumbling onto the rest of the cathedral. However, fires would cause the bell towers to fall and the nave to be completely destroyed. The fighting ended on August 30, 1944, when the German army retreated. Like the city of Saint Malo, The Rouen Cathedral was severely dammaged by bombs.

Rouen Cathedral today

Rouen Cathedral is not the largest cathedral in France but it has the tallest steeple, the widest western façade, and the rest of the dimensions are impressive too.

Try to plan a visit to Rouen to coincide with the Cathedral of Lights show: an amazing display that takes place annually, illuminating the church with vivid images and accompanied by music, pertaining to the theme of the year. Past themes have included Impressionism and Joan of Arc and the Vikings.

Getting to Rouen Cathedral

The address of Rouen Cathedral is Notre-Dame Cathedral, Place de la Cathédrale, 76000 Rouen, France. The site is located on the north bank of the River Seine, overlooking Île Lacroix arena.

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