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August 26, 2010
, West Virginia
May 2, 2004
The building was begun in 1145 with St. Romain’s Tower and was continued and altered
until the early Sixteenth Century. Over this span of 400 years, the style changed so that
lack of uniformity is obvious, but that is one of the main attractions of this cathedral.
Roman, Norman, flamboyant Gothic, and Late Renaissance are combined into a pleasing
symphony of styles, a UNESCO World Heritage treasure. It has been referred to as a
"fairytale of stone," an "elegant lacework," and a masterpiece of French Gothic. The
cathedral is so massive and so close to other buildings, we found it impossible to capture
a long view, so like Monet, we photographed mostly the west facade one bit at a time.
Details of stone craftsmanship are striking on the portals. Tympana depict the Passion
and Resurrection of Christ and the execution of St. John the Baptist.
Inside, the size of the columns is also striking. I was amazed at the stone filigree of the
library staircase and awed by the beauty of the Virgin’s Chapel. Stained-glass windows
in the ambulatory include some magnificent originals (Thirteenth Century). The one of
St. Julian the Hospitaler attracted Flaubert (whose father was the director of the hospital)
and was the inspiration for the writer’s Three Tales. Books have been written
about the comments and interactions of famous people who have had connections with
Rouen’s cathedral, but famous tombs told us much of the story of Normandy.
We had just visited Chenonceau, so the tomb of Seneschal Louis de Breze meant
something to us, as he was Diane de Poitiers’ husband. (She was also mistress of Henry
II.) Rollon, first Duke of Normandy, is also here, as is Richard the Lionhearted of
England--his heart. (Actually, the box the heart was in is in the cathedral’s treasury, but
his tomb is by Rollon’s in the chancel.) We absorbed all the history we could and then
marvelled again at the size and beauty of the church. A display concerning the windows
helped us to read and admire them, and another numbered display recounts the statuary.
Most famous are the incredibly beautiful statues of St. Apolline and St. Genevieve on the
arch of the Booksellers’ Portal.
Notre Dame de Rouen is open from 8am 7 days, and admission is free.
From journal Rouen, My Favorite City in France
May 22, 2001
We were there for Sunday Mass. The 30 or so attendants looked terribly lost in the gigantic church. Does this mean that Rouen has more churches than church-goers to fill them?
From journal Rouen, the historical city