Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Adventures in Rouen

So this past Saturday Sweet Briar arranged a day trip for us to Rouen, the capital of Haute-Normandie, and also the town where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. Upon arrival we went on a brief (but cold!) short tour of the historic monuments of the town starting with Notre Dame. Just so you know, there are a ton of "Notre Dame" cathedrals across France; the one in Paris just happens to be the most famous. So yes, we were at the Notre Dame cathedral in Rouen, which is cool for several reasons. First, the design is slightly different, with the towers on the sides rather than in front, which makes the cathedral look much wider than it actually. The tower on the left was built in 1035 and the rest built in the centuries following. Also the tower on the right is known as the "Tour de Beurre" (Butter Tower), most likely because of the yellow-ish tint to the stone.

The construction is actually just cleaning to remove the dirt
and pollution from the past century
But the most interesting part about this cathedral is that it was bombed during WWII, which assuming I understood the tour guide correctly, was done by the Allies (by accident) when they bombed towns all across Normandy in preparation for D-Day to make travel more difficult for the German. So yes, there are many newer aspects to the cathedral now. They were able to move some of the more valuable stained glass windows to safekeeping before the start of the war but many were destroyed during the bombing. You can see the differences between the older and the newer windows.

One of the original stained glass windows
One of the newer stained glass windows

The actual structure of the building was also damaged with several of the columns being moved in the blast, which is really amazing if you think about how enormous they are. But yeah, it's interesting to see the mix of old and new in one building, and also to think about how not even 500 year old cathedrals are safe from the destruction of war.

View of the inside of the cathedral
The heart of the cathedral

The cathedral also has a small area dedicated to St. Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) since she was killed less than a km away.
Joan of Arc
After the cathedral we walked through this very cool town to Le Gros Horloge, which is an astronomical clock dating back to the 16th century. Fun Fact: It's old enough that it was named back when "horloge" was a masculine noun because if it were named now it would technically be called "La Grosse Horloge."But yeah, the reason I really like this town is because you can see 500 year old buildings on the same street as buildings from 50 years ago, because of the war. It's actually really unfortunate that historical buildings were destroyed but the contrast is definitely thought-provoking. It's also just amazing that such old buildings still exist and are used, compared to the U.S. where a 100 year old building is considered impressive.

Close-up of Le Gros Horloge
In front of Le Gros Horloge

Anyway, from there we went to the square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.

The square where she died
Where the fire actually was

Overall, this is an awesome (but cold!) town that is definitely worth going to, especially if you like history. It's been an important town since the Middle Ages and has been an important part of history from the Hundred Years War to WWII. Even Claude Monet has lived here, and made the cathedral famous in one of his paintings!

See, even Fluffy liked Rouen!
I had to include her in a few pictures
since she is after all the 'Globetrotter'!
So some quick updates on my life: On Friday I'm off to Dublin for 4 days and then a day in Edinburgh so I will be out of reach until Wednesday morning. Ok I guess that was really only one update, but it's exciting enough to count as more!

1 comment:

  1. You look so French in that photo! ha. Hope you are enjoying your quick getaway trip.