We were welcomed to Rouen with rain and temperatures in the mid-40s.
Rouen is the capital of Normandy and France’s fourth largest port. Founded by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in 744 AD, but overtaken by the Vikings one hundred years later. William the Conqueror died in Rouen in 1087 AD and over one hundred years later, King Phillip II, Augustus of France annexed Normand and Rouen thrived. Turmoil struck in the 14th century—it was here that Joan of Arc was tried for heresy and treason, and burned at the stake at the Old Market Square. In WWII, Rouen, south of the cathedral and nearest to the river, was practically leveled by bombing. Thankfully, this part of the city has been painstakingly restored to reflect its former glory.
Despite the weather, a walking tour of the city revealed it’s quaintness and vibrancy. The Rouen Cathedral, began in the late fourth century, has be rebuilt many times; the current structure was begun in the twelfth century. The cathedral houses the tomb of Viking Rollo, founder and first ruler of Normandy, and the tomb holding the heart of Richard the Lionheart. The height of Rouen Cathedral is exceeded only by the cathedral in Cologne, Germany. Stained glass windows date to the thirteenth century. I found the cathedral to be the most picturesque of all those we’ve seen in our travels. Apparently Monet appreciated the cathedral’s beauty as well; he painted it several times (one of the paintings is valued at $40 million).
We particularly enjoyed walking the cobblestone streets of the city, with its many coffee and tea shops, speciality stores, and bakeries and meat markets. Some 700 half-timbered structures remain and restoration of the buildings suffering WWII bombing added to the city’s quaintness.