Rouen, France

The Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame

Rouen (pronounced "roo-ehn") is an ancient city of 100,000 people in Normandy. It mixes magnificent Gothic architecture, charming half-timbered houses and contemporary bustle like no other city in France. Today's Rouen is France's fifth-largest port, Europe's biggest food exporter (mainly wheat and grain), and a popular tourist destination, but it was once an even greater city - second only to Paris until the 18th century.

Located on the Seine River near the coast, Rouen was a regional capital during Roman times and France's second greatest city in the Middle Ages. Rouen's wealth and power was based primarily on its wool industry and favorable position on the river. In the 9th century, the Normans chose Rouen as their capital, and William the Conquerer made it his home before moving to England. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431. In April 1944, Allied bombers destroyed half of Rouen, especially the industrial suburbs. Fortunately, most of the historic area survived intact, and the Gothic cathedral painted by Monet can still be admired today.

Rouen Cathedral
Rouen's Cathedral has many fine features, but is especially famous for two things: the highest spire in France, a cast-iron tour-de-force erected in 1876; and Claude Monet's many paintings of its facade.
Originally the church of a Benedictine abbey, St-Ouen is larger than the cathedral and more harmonious in its Gothic architecture. Joan of Arc was sentenced to death in its cemetery in 1431.
St-Maclou Church
Just across this street from the cathedral and surrounded by half-timbered buildings is this fine Gothic church, rebuilt 1437-1521. It is best known for its finely carved wooden doors from the 16th century.