|Abbey church of Saint-Ouen, Rouen
||Cathedral of Rouen||Cathedral of Rouen - nave||Law Courts of Rouen|
Rouen is the historical capital city of Normandy, in northwestern France on the River Seine, and presently the capital of the Haute-Normandie (Upper Normandy) région. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, Rouen was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages. It was one of the capitals of the Anglo-Norman dynasties, which ruled both England and large parts of modern France from the 11th century to the 15th century. It is in Rouen that the English burnt Joan of Arc in 1431.
The population of the metropolitan area (in French: aire urbaine) at the 1999 census was 518,316 inhabitants. The city proper had a population of 106,592
Rouen was probably founded by the Romans who called it Rotomagus. Rouen was the chief city of the Secunda Provincia Lugdunensis under Constantine. In the 5th century it became the seat of the bishopric and later a capital of Neustria. In the 9th century, it was overrun by Normans and since 912 has been the capital of Normandy and residence of the dukes.
In the 1100s, Rouen was the site of a yeshiva; at that time, about 6,000 Jews lived in the town, comprising about 20% of the population, in addition to a large number of Jews scattered about another 100 communities in Normandy. The well-preserved remains of the yeshiva were discovered in the 1970s under the Rouen Law Courts, and the community has begun a project to restore them.
During the Hundred Years' War, on January 19, 1419, Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England who made Normandy a part of England. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen on May 30, 1431. The French recaptured the town in 1449.
Rouen is known for its Notre Dame cathedral, with its Tour de Beurre (butter tower). The cathedral was the subject of a series of paintings by Claude Monet, some of which are exhibited in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
Other famous structures include the Gothic Church of Saint Maclou (15th century); the Tour Jeanne d'Arc, where Joan of Arc was brought in 1431 to be threatened with torture (contrary to popular belief, she was not imprisoned there); the Church of Saint Ouen (12th–15th century); the Palais de Justice, which was once the seat of the Parlement (French court of law) of Normandy and the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics which contains a splendid collection of faïence and porcelain for which Rouen was renowned during the 16th to 18th centuries.
Rouen is noted for its surviving half-timbered buildings.
In the centre of the Place du Vieux Marché is the modern church of Saint Joan of Arc. This is a large, modern structure which dominates the square. The form of the building represents the pyre on which Joan of Arc was burnt.
The chapter of Rouen, (which consists of the archbishop, a dean, fifty canons, and ten prebendaries), have, ever since the year 1156, enjoyed the annual privilege of pardoning, on Ascension day, some individual confined within the jurisdiction of the city for murder. On the morning of Ascension day, the chapter, having heard many examinations and confessions read, proceed to the election of the criminal who is to be pardoned; and, the choice being made, his name is transmitted in writing to the parliament, which assemble on that day at the palace. The parliament then walk in procession to the great chamber, where the prisoner is brought before them in irons, and placed on a stool; he is informed that the choice has fallen upon him, and that he is entitled to the privilege of St. Romain.
After this form, he is delivered into the hands of the chaplain, who, accompanied by fifty armed men, conveys him to a chamber, where the chains are taken from his legs and bound about his arms; and in this condition he is conducted to a place named the Old Tower, where he awaits the coming of the procession. After some little time has elapsed, the procession sets out from the cathedral; two of the canons bear the shrine in which the relics of St. Romain are presumed to be preserved. When they have arrived at the Old Tower, the shrine is placed in the chapel, opposite to the criminal, who appears kneeling, with the chains on his arms. Then one of the canons, having made him repeat the confession, says the prayers usual at the time of giving absolution; after which service, the prisoner kneeling still, lifts up the shrine three times, amid the acclamations of the people assembled to behold the ceremony. The procession then returns to the cathedral, followed by the criminal, wearing a chaplet of flowers on his head, and carrying the shrine of the saint. After mass has been performed, he has a very serious exhortation addressed to him by a monk; and, lastly, he is conducted to an apartment near the cathedral, and is supplied with refreshments and a bed for that night. In the morning he is dismissed. This privilege was justified by the legend of the Gargouille, a fearsome dragon, and how St. Romain defeated him with the help of a prisoner.