History of Rouen

April 11, 2015

Rouen is not one of France’s best-known cities, but it is the historic capital of Upper Normandy and has played host to a number of huge historical events throughout its lifetime. Sitting just 80 miles away from Paris and within easy reach of our cross-channel ports, this

Rouen was originally founded by the ancient Gauls, although Julius Caesar and the Romans took over and developed the city significantly. In the 5th Century, it came under the rule of Emperor Constantine and in the 9th Century was taken over by the Normans.

Rouen went on to become one of the most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, was home to the Exchequer of Normandy, William the Conqueror regularly held court here and Richard the Lionheart was crowned Duke of Normandy in the town. One of the most famous events in the city’s history, however, involved Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake in Rouen after being captured and ransomed to English soldiers. There is a new museum in honour of Joan of Arc, called Historial Jeanne d’Arc, opening in Rouen in 2015, housed in the Archbishop’s Palace. The rest of the city’s history is covered through various excellent museums which focus on Rouen’s strong artistic and craft traditions.

Being built on the River Seine, Rouen became a famous trading port, and to this day every 6 years the port is taken over by an armada of tall ships, as a throwback to the city’s most prosperous period.

In Medieval times, the rich lords, dukes and merchants of the city built fine homes for themselves, and commissioned the building of grand religious buildings. These buildings were lined up in a row, so from east to west in the city centre you can still see a series of church steeples piercing the skyline. Victor Hugo described Rouen as the City of a Hundred Spires, and with Saint-Ouen, Saint-Maclou, the Cathedral and the church to Joan of Arc, as well as the Gros Horloge town clock, the Palais de Justice and the fascinating Aître Saint-Maclou cemetery, with its carved skull and crossbones. While still available for tourists to see, all of these buildings help contribute to the story of Rouen’s history.

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