Rouen - Encyclopedia

GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

ROUEN, a city of France, capital of the department of SeineInferieure and the ancient capital of the province of Normandy, on the Seine, 87 m. N.W. of Paris by rail. Pop. (1906) 111,402. The old city lies on the north bank of the river in an amphitheatre formed by the hills which border the Seine valley. It is surrounded by boulevards. Outside the ellipse formed by these lie the suburbs of Martainville, St Hilaire, Beauvoisine, Bouvreuil and Cauchoise; 2 2 m. to the east is the industrial town of Darnetal (pop. 6770), and in the level plain on the opposite bank of the Seine is the extensive manufacturing suburb of St Sever with the industrial towns of Sotteville (pop. 18,096) and Petit Quevilly (pop. 14,852) in its immediate neighbourhood. Finally in the centre of the river, north-east of St Sever, is the Ile Lacroix, which also forms part of Rouen. Communication across the Seine is maintained by ferry and by three bridges, including a Pont transbordeur, or moving platform, slung between two lofty columns and propelled by electricity. Rouen possesses four railway stations. The central point of the old town is the Place de l'Hotel de Ville, occupied by the church of St Ouen, the hotel de ville and an equestrian statue of Napoleon I., and traversed by the Rue de la Republique which leads from it past the cathedral to the Place de la Republique and the Quai de Paris. Parallel to this street to the west are the Rue Beauvoisine with its southern continuations, the Rue des Carmes and the Rue Grand-Pont, and the wide and handsome Rue Jeanne d'Arc terminating on the Quai de la Bourse. These thoroughfares, which are all within the boulevards, are crossed at right angles by the 'Rue de la GrosseHorloge and by the Rue Thiers, running from the Place Cauchoise on the west to the Place de 1'HOtel de Ville, and passing on the left the Jardin Solferino and the museum.

The cathedral was built on the site of a previous cathedral which was destroyed by fire in 1200, and its construction lasted from the beginning of the 13th century, to which period belong the lateral doors of the west portal, to the beginning of the 16th century, when the Tour de Beurre was completed. The spire surmounting the central tower, which is the highest in France (485 ft.), is modern. The western facade, with its profusion of niches, pinnacles and statues, belongs, as a whole, to the Flamboyant style. But the northern tower, the Tour St Romain, is in the main of the 12th century, its upper stage (with its steep, pointed roof) having been added later. The southern tower, the Tour de Beurre, so named because funds for its building were given in return for the permission to eat butter in Lent, is of a type essentially Norman, and consists of a square tower pierced by high mullioned windows and surmounted by a low, octagonal structure, with a balustrade and pinnacles. The juxtaposition of these two towers, so different in character, is the, most striking feature of the main facade, which is notable besides for its width. The portals of the transept are each flanked by two towers and decorated with sculpture and statuary. That to the north, the Portail des Libraires, looks upon the Cour des Libraires, once the resort of the booksellers of Rouen. That to the south is known as the Portail de la Calende. The plan of the church comprises a nave with aisles and lateral chapels, a transept and a choir with ambulatory. The most remarkable part of the interior is the Lady Chapel (1302-20) behind the choir with the tombs (1518-25) of Cardinal Georges d'Amboise and his nephew, the statuary of which, including the kneeling statues of the two cardinals, is of the finest Renaissance workmanship. The chapel also contains the tomb (1536-44) of Louis de Breze, seneschal of Normandy. Behind the cathedral is the archiepiscopal palace, a building of the 14th and 15th centuries.

St Ouen, formerly the church of an abbey dating to the Roman period and reorganized by Archbishop St Ouen in the 7th century, exceeds the cathedral in length as well as in purity of style. In spite of the juxtaposition of the second and third, the Radiant and Flamboyant types of Gothic architecture, the building, as a whole, presents a unity which even the modern facade has failed to mar. It was founded in 1318 in place of a Romanesque church which previously occupied the site and of which the only relic is the chapel in the south transept. The choir alone was constructed in the 14th century. The nave of the church belongs to the 15th century, by the end of which the central tower with its octagonal lantern and four flanking turrets had been erected. The building of the western facade, which is flanked by two towers, was not undertaken till 1846.

The walls of the church are pierced by windows filled with stained glass of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries and cover more space than is usual even in French Gothic churches. The Portail des Marmousets, the entrance to the south transept, has a projecting porch, behind and above which rises a magnificent rose window. The north façade has no entrance. In the interior, now despoiled of many artistic treasures, there is an organ-case dating from 1630 and a railing of the 18th century surrounding the choir.

The church of St Maclou, behind the cathedral, begun in 1 437 and finished early in the 16th century, is a rich example of the Flamboyant style, the characteristics of which are specially displayed in the decoration of the façade and the tracery of the portal with its five arched openings. It is celebrated for carving attributed to Jean Goujon which appears on the western doors and in other parts of the church, and has a handsome organ-loft reached by a graceful open staircase, and stained glass of the 15th and 16th centuries. The spire above the central tower is modern and was finished in 1869. Close by the church is the old parish cemetery called the Aitre de St Maclou; it is surrounded by wooden galleries of the Renaissance period, supported on stone pillars on which are sculptures representing a dance of death.

The church of St Vincent, near the Seine, is a building of the 16th century and contains the finest stained-glass windows in Rouen; those at the end of the north aisle, by Engrand and Jean le Prince, artists of Beauvais, are the most noted. The stained glass in the churches of St Patrice (16th century) and St Godard (late 15th century) is inferior only to that of St Vincent. Among the less important ecclesiastical buildings of Rouen are the churches of St Gervais, St Romain, St Laurent, St Vivien, and the tower of St Andre, a relic of an old church of the 15th and 16th centuries.

The most important secular building in Rouen is the Palais de Justice, once the seat of the exchequer and, later, of the parlement of Normandy. It is in the late Gothic style and consists of a main building flanked by two wings. The left wing, known as the Salle des Procureurs, was erected in 1493 and is remarkable for its lofty barrel-roof of timber. South of the Palais de Justice is the Porte de la Grosse Horloge, an arcade spanning the street and surmounted by a large clock of the 15th century with two dials. The Tour de la Grosse Horloge, which rises beside the arcade, was built in 1389. The tower known as the Tour de Jeanne d'Arc was the scene of her trial, and is all that remains of the castle built by Philip Augustus early in the 13th century. The Porte Guillaume-Lion, opening on to the Quai de Paris, is a handsome gateway built in 1749.

There are numerous old houses in Rouen in the Gothic and Renaissance styles. The Hotel de Bourgtheroulde, the most famous of them, is a stone mansion of the 15th century added to in the reign of Francis I., the façades of which are decorated with bas-reliefs representing scenes from the meeting of the Field of the Cloth of Gold and allegories from the Triumphs of Petrarch. Among more modern buildings are the hotel de ville of the 18th century, adjoining the north side of the church of St Ouen, the Bourse dating from the same period, and the Musee-Bibliotheque constructed in 1880 and containing rich collections of pictures and ceramics and a library with upwards of 133,000 volumes and many valuable MSS. An important museum of antiquities and a museum of natural history are contained in the old convent of the Visitation. A statue of the composer F. A. Boieldieu overlooks the Quai de la Bourse, and one of Pierre Corneille stands at the western extremity of the Ile Lacroix; both were natives of the town. At Bonsecours, on a hill on the Seine 2 m. above Rouen, are the modern church, which is a resort of pilgrims, and the monument to Joan of Arc consisting of three small Renaissance buildings with a statue of the heroine in the principal one.

Rouen is the seat of an archbishop, a prefect, a court of appeal and a court of assizes, and headquarters of the III. army corps. Its public institutions also include a tribunal of first instance, tribunals of commerce and of maritime commerce, a council of trade-arbitration, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. Among its educational establishments are preparatory schools of medicine and pharmacy, and of higher instruction in science and literature, lycees and training-colleges for both sexes, ecclesiastical seminaries, and schools of commerce and industry, of architecture, music and fine arts. All the more important nations have consulates in the city. Rouen is an important centre for trade in wines, spirits, grain and cattle. Grain, wine, coal, timber and petroleum are leading imports. Besides its manufactures it exports plaster, sugar and sand. The principal industries of Rouen and its district are the spinning and weaving of cotton, notably the manufacture of rouenneries (cotton fabric woven with dyed yarn), the printing and dyeing of the manufactured material and the spinning of flax, hemp and jute; ship-building and the making of braces, shirts, bodices, boots, shoes and hats is also carried on, and there are distilleries, petroleum-refineries and manufactories of chemicals, soap, machinery, carding-combs and brushes. The port of Rouen comprises the marine docks below the Boieldieu bridge, and the river dock, the timber dock and the petroleum dock above it. There is also a repairing dock. The Seine is tidal beyond Rouen. The port is accessible for ships drawing 192 to 222 ft. of water, and its quays have a superficial area of about 123 acres. It is served by the lines of the Orleans, the Western and the Northern railway companies, and these, in addition to the waterways connected with the Seine, make Rouen a convenient centre for the distribution of merchandise.

Ratuma or Ratumacos, the Celtic name of Rouen, was modified by the Romans into Rotomagus, and by the writers of medieval Latin into Rodomum, of which the present name is a corruption. Under Caesar and the early emperors the town was the capital of the Veliocasses, a people of secondary rank, and it did not attain to any eminence till it was made the centre of Lugdunensis Secunda at the close of the 3rd century, and a little later the seat of an archbishop. Rouen owed much to its first bishops - from St Mello, the apostle of the region, who flourished about 260, to St Remigius, who died in 772. The bishops built many churches and their tombs became in turn the origin of new sanctuaries. Under Louis le Debonnaire and his successors, the Normans several times sacked the city, but after the treaty of St Clair-sur-Epte in 912, Rouen became the capital of Normandy and attained still greater prosperity. It was the principal residence of the dukes and was the scene in 949 of a victory gained by Duke Richard I. over Otto the Great, emperor of Germany, Louis d'Outremer, king of France, and Arnold, count of Flanders. In 1087 William the Conqueror, mortally wounded at Mantes, died at Rouen. The succeeding Norman kings of England tended to neglect Rouen in favour of Caen and afterwards of Poitiers, Le Mans and Angers; but its monasteries, local trade and manufactures, and the communal organization which the citizens exacted from their sovereigns during the course of the 12th century maintained an importance which is indicated by the building of several fine churches, notably that of St Ouen. In 1203 Rouen was the scene of the murder of Arthur of Brittany at the hands of King John of England. Ostensibly to avenge the crime, Philip Augustus invaded Normandy and entered the capital unopposed. The union of the province with the crown of France in no way hindered the prosperity of the city, for Philip confirmed its communal privileges and built a new castle. A convention between the merchants of Rouen and those of Paris relating to the navigation of the Seine was followed by treaties with London, with the Hanseatic towns and with Flanders and Champagne. In 1302 the seat of the exchequer or sovereign court, afterwards the parlement, of Normandy was definitely fixed at Rouen, which had previously shared its sessions with other towns. In 1356 Charles the Bad, king of Navarre, a favourite in the city, was arrested within its walls, an event which displeased the inhabitants, who after the disaster at Poitiers supported the cause of Etienne Marcel. The revolt of the Harelle in 1382, caused by the exactions both of the uncles of Charles VI. and of the monks of St Ouen, was followed by heavy punishment. In spite of this a stubborn resistance was offered to Henry V. of England who, after a long siege, occupied the town iri 1419. The prosperity of Rouen continued under the English domination, and during this period the greater part of the church of St Ouen was constructed. In 1431 Joan of Arc was tried and burnt in the city. From that year the French began a series of attempts to recapture the town, but they were unsuccessful till 1449 when Somerset, the English commander, was obliged to surrender the principal fortified places in Normandy. During the close of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th, Rouen was the metropolis of art and taste in France and was one of the first places to reflect the influence of the Renaissance. During the wars of religion the arts declined. In 1562 the town was sacked by the Protestants. This did not prevent the League from gaining so firm a footing there that Henry IV. besieged it unsuccessfully and only obtained entrance after his abjuration. The revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685 lost Rouen many of its richest and most industrious citizens in the Calvinistic emigration. The town suffered less from the excesses of the French Revolution than from the depredations of bandits who, under the Directory, infested the neighbourhood of the city and were not suppressed till the Consulate. During the Franco-German War the city was occupied by the invaders from December 1870 till July 1871, and had to submit to heavy requisitions.

See A. Cheruel, Histoire de Rouen pendant l'e'poque communale (Rouen, 1843); Histoire de Rouen sous la domination anglaise au quinzieme siecle (Rouen, 1840); N. Periaux, Histoire sommaire et chronologique de la ville de Rouen (Rouen, 1874); C. Enlart, Rouen (Paris, 1904).

Encyclopedia Alphabetically

A * B * C * D * E * F * G * H * I * J * K * L * M * N * O * P * Q * R * S * T * U * V * W * X * Y * Z

Advertise Here


- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.

This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2021 ITA all rights reserved.