We’ve spent the last 2 and a half days in Rouen – northwest of Paris – about 1 -1.5 hours by train. It is wonderful medieval town – best known as where Joan of Arc was executed in the 1400s.
In fact, these first 3 photos are taken in the square where she was killed. I love the old wood timber framed buildings. The modern (1970s) church has a really cool Viking look to it (in homage of Joan.)
The clock down the road is from the 1500s. called the grande horloge, it only has a hour hand!
The cathedral in Rouen was built in the 1200s through the 1800s (and it totally not symmetrical – unlike Notre Dame in Paris). There is so much intricate carving here – it looks like a drip castle. For 4 years in the 1800s, it was the tallest building in the world.
a peek-a-book view through a door
There are so many big churches in France.. 2 blocks away – another huge edifice – and then 2 blocks from there… it is churches all the way down.
There are “streets” that are so narrow that 2 people cannot walk past one another.. And every building has a distinct lean – one way, or another (or perhaps a few directions)
As we have traveled Europe, we have seen lots of evidence of tragedy from the 2 world wars. So many millions dead – there is a real dedication to make sure no one ever forgets. But Rouen has a unique remembrance spot of another series of catastrophic events – the Black Plagues.
In the 1300s, 75% of Rouen was lost to the plague. To keep up with disposal of all the bodies, they were all placed in a mass grave. Buildings sprouted around the square.
in the 1500’s, the plague struck again. this time 66% of the town died. I can’t even imagine. But – there was no more space for the bodies. So they dug up the first mass grave, and placed the bones in a nearby building, and reused the spot. The buildings around the square have carvings of shovels, bones and skeletons.
From what I have read – most cities had squares like this, but few still remain. even with some construction going on – it was a quiet place. It was a place of deep memories, and it felt sacred.
Rouen is a great little city. Very walkable, very friendly. We had an excellent AirBnb (and wonderful hosts who picked us up (and will drop us off) at the train station.)
Tomorrow, we head to Bayeux – near the Normandy D-Day beaches.