Impressions of Rouen: Monet, Joan of Arc, and the Cathedrale Notre-Dame

From the grandest city to the quaintest village, every place has a story to be told. In the case of Rouen, there are several that hold enduring fascination for all visitors.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame

Towering above the city’s skyline, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame inspired impressionist master Claude Monet to capture the building’s beauty in a series of more than 30 paintings. Monet forever memorialized the cathedral at different times of days and in different weather conditions between 1892 and 1893. Many of the paintings are part of collections at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, among other esteemed museums.

Perhaps the most striking features of the cathedral are the three Gothic towers that soar above the rest of the medieval city. Each of the towers has its own noteworthy feature. The Tour Saint-Romain was built in 1145 CE and was one of the few parts of the cathedral to remain intact after a fire ravaged the cathedral in 1200. The Tour de Beurre, or “Butter Tower” (which served as inspiration for the Tribune Tower in Chicago), was named for wealthy donors allowed to eat butter during Lent in exchange for their funding. The third Tour Lanterne peaks at 500 feet.

The main doorway of the cathedral — engraved with depictions of the family tree of Jesus — is the gateway to a trove of Gothic treasures that lie within the church itself. The nave is adorned with gorgeous architectural elements that are staples of the early Gothic style, and the entire interior is enhanced by vibrant stained glass representing major art periods between the Middle Ages to early Renaissance. Those with an interest in royal remains will find the heart of Richard the Lionheart of England entombed on the right side of the choir.

Joan of Arc

When Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) met her fateful end in Rouen in 1431, she was only estimated to be 19 years old — but she had already left behind a legacy that has lasted through the ages. During her brief military career, she led the French army in several victorious battle against the English before being captured and burned at the stake for a contrived heresy charge.

At the time of her death, Joan was a national heroine. Nearly 500 years later, in 1920, she was beatified as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Visitors to the city today can visit the Church of Saint Joan of Arc, which stands on the very ground of her martyrdom.

Taken as a whole, the sights and sounds of Rouen create an image that is centuries in the making. Even after just one day, the venerable city of Rouen will leave its impressions on all who pass through its historic streets.

Visitors to Rouen on Vantage Travel’s A Seine River Cruise: Paris & Highlights of Normandy will find themselves absorbing the city’s richly packed history on this one-day stop.

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