27 July 2010

L'Eglise Saint-Ouen in Rouen

I spent last Thursday afternoon in Rouen. The mission was a visit to the curator of the Musée des Beaux Arts there with CHM, who was donating his grandfather's drawing of Jeanne d'Arc to the collections there.

A picture of the Eglise Saint-Ouen that I took when
Walt and I were in Rouen in June 2003.

As a side benefit, the curator gave us passes to attend the current special Impressionist exhibit at the museum — it is dozens of impressionist paintings depicting the city of Rouen. They've been brought in from all over the world. It was very crowded, but worth the effort to see these paintings displayed together.

The Saint-Ouen church in Rouen (Normandy) has the
dimensions and proportions of the great Gothic cathedrals.

Afterward, we decided to go visit one of Rouen's great churches. There are three: the cathedral, painted many times in different seasons and at different times of day by Claude Monet; the Eglise Saint-Maclou, a flamboyant Gothic gem built between 1437 and 1517; and the Eglise Saint-Ouen, built starting in the early 1300s and as grand as many of France's cathedrals (even though it is not a cathedral). The last is the one we went to have a look at. Currently, there's an art exhibit in the Saint-Ouen church.

The Eglise Saint-Ouen in Rouen

Even after walking around with CHM in six or eight grand churches over the previous few days, including the cathedral in Amiens (one of France's largest, and an archetype of gothic architecture), Saint-Ouen was impressive. Maybe because there is almost no seating — no pews, just a few chairs — in the church now, it seems even bigger than it really is. You can see the scale of it in at least one of my pictures, because there are people standing next to the pillars that hold up the vaulted ceilings. They are dwarfed by the building.

The people in this picture give you a sense
of the scale of the building.

As I've said many times on this blog, I lived in Rouen in 1972-73, when I worked as an English-language teaching assistant in one of the city's high schools, the Lycée Corneille. It was a formative year for me — my second trip to France, and longer than the first one. It was the trip during which I made friends with several French students and their families, and during which I really started to become fluent in French.

The stained glass in the Saint-Ouen church dates back to the 1500s.

Rouen is called the Ville-Musée — the whole city, which is a lively port town with a vibrant street life, is an art and architecture museum. It's much smaller than Paris, but with a lot of major monuments, museums, restaurants, cafés, and markets crammed into a very small space. It's only an hour and a half by train from Paris, and it's really worth the journey. It's also been called "the town with 100 steeples" because it has so many old churches. It's history goes back to Roman times.

Eglise Saint-Ouen

I'm posting a few pictures here that I took inside the Eglise Saint-Ouen last week. Only the first photo is older than that. I've been lucky to be able to go back to Rouen and see its attractions and sights many times over the past 35 years. The city never disappoints me.


  1. Beautiful pictures. We have only ever stopped in Rouen once to look around and then only briefly. Nowadays we hurtle through in order to get to the Loire as fast as possible. Your post reminds me that we should really spend some time there.

  2. So, Ken, is the name of that cathedral simply La Cathédrale de Rouen? There's no Saint somebody in there?

    Thanks for this post!


  3. Ken, I've always wondered how you pronounce Saint-Ouen in French. There's a village called 'Saint Ouen-les-Vignes' just north of Amboise and I'm always afraid to pronounce its name when being in France as I don't want to sound even more foreign than I actually am ;).

  4. Hi Judy, the cathedral is Notre-Dame de Rouen.

    Martine, in Rouen, they pronounce Saint-Ouen so it rhymes with Rouen -- with a nasal ã as in blanc or enfant. But in Paris people pronounce the name of the town where the marché aux puces is located as Saint-"Ouin". In other words, rhyming with vin or train.

    As for the dozens of other towns and villages in France named Saint-Ouen... your guess is as good as mine.

  5. Great pictures of magnificent architecture.

  6. How beautiful!

  7. Thanks to you, Ken, I am now seriously considering making Rouen a day trip from Paris in Oct.


  8. Bonjour ! So pleased you love my town ! You pull my leg so many times about the more than rainy "rouennais" climate that I have the impression you keep bad memories from your long stay in Rouen when being an English assistant in Lycée Corneille...

    Judy, most cathedrals are called "Notre-Dame" ("de + the name of the town/city"), so our cathedral is called "Notre-Dame" (de Rouen).

    You may listen to an extract from an organ concert on this site (scroll down the screen) :


    And here are several links in English + 2 videos related to the "cathédrale" :




    Et voilà ! Bonne fin de journée en
    France and a nice afternoon in the States :-) Mary/Marie (Normandy)


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