«June 2014»

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

On our way to Normandy to witness the 70th anniversary of D-day invasion, we stopped first in Rouen to immerse ourselves in history much older. It was much better than expected, rich in history but also found the French more inclined to friendliness and willing to speak English. The women at least.
I hope you will enjoy below account.

Rouen, France - june 2014
Hotel de Paris, our stay in Rouen for one night. Not exactly deluxe accommodation and with a seperate
fee for breakfast (which we did not opt for) not exactly cheap either. But it offered a great location
for an afternoon walk in the historic city center of Rouen. Breakfast we took up the road around the corner.

Rouen, France - june 2014
The Hotel Paris: a very small room with paper thin walls. No foreign languages on the tv.
On the positive side: a small elevator eased the trip to the 4th floor and the staff was very friendly.


Rouen, France - june 2014
What we came for: the Rouen cathedral (French: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen) is
the seat of the Archbishop of Rouen and Normandy.

Rouen, France - june 2014
Very different styles in decorations, a proud heritage of many centuries.

Rouen, France - june 2014

A church was already present at the location in late 4th century, and eventually a cathedral was established in Rouen, as in Poitiers. It was enlarged by St. Ouen in 650, and visited by Charlemagne in 769.

All the buildings perished during a Viking raid in the 9th century, Rollo was baptized here in 915 and buried in 931, Richard I further enlarged it in 950, St. Romain's tower was built in 1035. The buildings of Archbishop Robert II were consecrated in 1065. The cathedral was struck by lightning in 1110.

Construction on the current building began in the 12th century in the Early Gothic-style for Saint Romain's tower, front side porches and part of the nave.
The cathedral was burnt in 1200.
Repairs and building proceeded in the socalled 'High Gothic'-style. Some windows are still decorated with stained glass of the 13th century, famous because of a special cobalt blue colour, known as 'the blue from Chartres'.


Rouen, France - june 2014
Building continued over centuries, but adversity struck repeatedly: lightning strikes, fires, storms and destruction by war.
Not all building was responsible or to last, some of it needed replacement or restructuring. But the cathedral grew in majestic
proportions. And I am thrilled considering the history of this location, e.g. this cathedral had a strong musical tradition
since the Middle Ages; its choir was famous, up to the French Revolution, for singing from memory. WIKIPEDIA

Rouen, France - june 2014

Richard Lionheart's tomb in Rouen's cathedral. Actually, only his heart is kept here. And last year his heart made the news, after eight centuries!
When embalmed after his death in April 1199, the heart of King Richard I was soaked in frankincense.
Philippe Charlier, a celebrity French pathologist who specialises in the coldest of cold cases, told: "We found many interesting things," he said, "but the most interesting was the presence, in substantial quantities, of frankincense; which has never been found in any other embalming. It is unique.
This suggests that Richard, and those around him, knew of episodes in his life which had a bad smell... Frankincense, linked to Christ’s story, may have been intended to make him smell like a saint and therefore to ease his passage to heaven."


Rouen, France - june 2014

The sign was promising, but it was not clear to what the text referred to. Repairs indicated a vault had been closed?
A bit disappointing, but here is the story of Queen Matilda ( Empress Matilda - the 'Lady of the English'):
King Henry I of England had two legitimate children. William and Matilda.
William was killed during the White Ship disaster. The impact of White Ship disaster was that it left Henry with no male heir. Henry then called upon all his chief noblemen to swear that they would take Matilda for their queen in England, and their duchess in Normandy, after his own death.
Young Maude, her Latin name was Matilda, was married to the German Henry V, the Holy Roman Emperor. Her husband died in 1125 and Matilda returned to England.
In 1127 she was forced to marry Geoffrey of Anjou. It was a tempestuous marriage, Matilda left her younger husband (he was 11 years her junior) but was reconciled and produced three sons. The eldest son was Henry, who was born on March 5, 1133 (later, King Henry II of England). Her second son was Geoffrey, Count of Nantes and her youngest son was called William.
Matilda's father, King Henry I of England, died in 1135. Matilda was ready to take her place as Queen of England. Neither English nor Normans had ever been ruled by a woman, and Queen Matilda, the Empress Maude, as she called herself, was a proud, disagreeable, ill-tempered woman, whom nobody liked.

Maud did not make herself popular in England. A revolt put her in prison. She was so proud and violent, that her husband would not even come over to England to help her, but remained put to govern Normandy!
She escaped by lying down in a coffin, with holes for air, and being thus carried through all the country.
When besieged in Oxford Castle, she once more escaped. One night, Maude dressed herself and three of her knights all in white, and they were, one by one, let down by ropes from the walls. They crossed the river on the ice, walked a great part of the night, and at last came to Abingdon, where horses were waiting for them.
Quite a woman!
Matilda had no further desire to be queen, but lived a retired life in a convent, and was much more respected there than as queen. Matilda died at Rouen in France; her epitaph here reads:
"Here lies the daughter, wife, and mother of Henry."
More can be read here:


Rouen, France - june 2014
Perhaps this is Matilda's tomb, I could find no reference. But the head has been
touched in reference so many times that lines have worn away over time. So it could well be.

Rouen, France - june 2014
Some of the decorations of the cathedral's exterior, a good chance to see these figures up close.

Rouen, France - june 2014

Rouen, France - june 2014
Lighting a candle.

Rouen, France - june 2014
A prayer in privat.

Rouen, France - june 2014
World War II also brought destruction to Rouen and to the cathedral in particular, during the bombardments by the Allied armed forces.

Rouen, France - june 2014
We are fortunate to be able to enjoy the intricate decorations, which have withstood
the forces of Nature, and destruction by Men, over so many centuries.

Rouen, France - june 2014




Rouen, France
Rouen was one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, it 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 to the 15th centuries. It was here that Joan of Arc was executed in 1431.
Rouen has its streets lined with history and it felt great to absorb some of this on a nice summer's day.

Rouen, France
The town comprises about 2,000 half-timbered houses, of which half have been restored.
The State has listed 227 houses as historical monuments.
This makes Rouen one of the first six cities in France in terms of historic architectural richness, despite the destruction during the Second World War when a quarter of the houses in the town's centre were burnt down!

Rouen, France



Rouen, France
Église Saint-Eloi / Temple Saint Eloi  at Place Martin Luther King.
Not far from the Église Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc and the many restaurants at Pl. du Vieux Marché.
Building built late 15th-early 16th century, on the site of earlier buildings. Basilica plan, on two levels, without transept. Modernization of the domestic media in the 18th century. In the 19th century, part of the stained glass windows of the nave is removed, and the axis is blocked and adorned with a painted glory.
In 1803, the building became a temple of the reformed church.

Rouen, France
I simply loved the gargoyles! No building these days get such attention to detail, a pity.




Rouen, France

Rouen, France
One has to remain alert for such details or otherwise you will sell yourself short.



Rouen, France
The Church of Saint Maclou was built during the transition from the late Gothic period (15th - 16th century) to
the Renaissance in the 16th century. We did not enter it, as it might be disappointing after our visit to the big cathedral.

Rouen, France



Rouen, France

By accident I stumbled upon this fantastic inner courtyard.
It is in use as a universtity for art and design students.

The creation of Le Havre Higher School of Art (ESAH) dates back to the year 1800.
On a proposal by citizen Antoine­Marie Lemaître, architect and former student of the Academy of Paris, the city council opened on 15 Frimaire of the year IX of the Republican calendar (15 November 1800), drawing school free of charge.
In 1811, after ten years of existence, in a politicaly difficult context, and following the death of Lemaître, the school stopped its activities for a few years.
In 1824, a Municipal Drawing School reopened in Le Havre with, as its first director, Dubois, pupil of David; it was successively located in rue de Bordeaux, rue Bernadin de Saint Pierre, then rue de la Maileraye.
Dubois set up many classes which took place at the end of the day. From 1871, directed by Charles Lhuilier, the school developed and offered classes of industrial drawing which contributed to the training of thousands of manual workers, foremen and engineers. 
In 1881, it was located in the former masonic temple at 44, rue Jules Lescene.
It became in 1883 the Municipal School of Fine Art.
At the beginning of the 1890s, it had among its students Raoul Dufy, Georges Braque and Othon Friesz. 
In 1927, the school moved to 130, rue Anatole France; it changed its name to become the 'Regional School of Fine Art'.
Its current form with a sylabus culminating in a diploma, dates from 1956.


Rouen, France
I marvelled at these decorations, the piracy symbols must relate to the anarchy, new beginnings, students strive for.

Rouen, France

Rouen, France
Ah, I also came across a library. I could not believe my luck: I 'collect' libraries!
At first the librarian wanted to get rid of me, she was stressed because tourists would step in as if they owned the place, and she was in the middle of moving the book collection to a different location. Moving, always traumatic, esspecially of you are on your own. But I explained myself and my cause: to promote books and their safekeeping, against the threat of electronics.
So I was granted my photo and hope her work went well, without too many disturbances.
Other libraries on my account



Rouen, France

Rouen, France
Proud to stand out. See more of my STREETPHOTOGRAPHY!

Rouen, France
A wonderful Italian meal in this underground taverne, Pizzeria Le Florian, near Église Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc.

Rouen, France
Time to get the car and move on, to Normandy!