The capital of Normandy and a popular holiday destination, Rouen
is also a centre of industry and commerce; it is the fifth largest
port in France and the closest one to Paris, split into a right and
left bank area by the River Seine.
Rouen is also one of France's most historic cities; William the
Conqueror died here in 1087 and in 1431 it was the stage for the
trial and execution of Joan of Arc. She was burned at the stake in
the Place du Vieux-Marché (the Old Marketplace); the position is
still marked by a huge bronze cross and worth visiting while on
Allied bombing largely destroyed the city of Rouen; all of its
bridges and many of its great churches were ruined. However,
substantial investment has been focused on restoring parts of the
city to its former medieval glory. The great Cathédrale Notre-Dame,
immortalised by Monet, remained fairly unscathed and is well worth
a visit for its wonderful stonework.
An especially interesting Rouen holiday attraction is the
Chapelle de la Vierge, where the heart of Richard the Lion-Heart is
entombed as a token of his affection for the people of Rouen. The
chapel also contains the Renaissance tombs of the cardinals
Dozens of churches and some fine museums can be explored
including the Musée des Beaux-Art, which is one of France's best
provincial museums and includes the works of great French artists
such as Veronese, Velasquez, Caravaggio, Rubens, Poussin, Fragonard
and Monet (including several versions of his Rouen Cathedral).