On the same June day in 1999 when we spent an hour or two in the painter Claude Monet's garden at Giverny, we visited an unusual museum in the city of Rouen. It's called Le Musée Le Secq des Tournelles and was named after a man who donated his vast collection of ferronnerie (ironwork, including weapons like swords and shields, household utensils, merchant's signs, surgical instruments, decorative objects, architectural features, and so on). Henri Le Secq des Tournelles (1854-1925), starting with a collection left to him by his father, the Parisian painter/photographer Henri le Secq (1818-1882), amassed a huge collection of such pieces of ironwork over the course of his life. In 1920, he donated the collection to the city of Rouen, and a disaffected church, l'église Saint-Laurent, was turned into a museum for their display.
The Saint-Laurent church dates back to the year 1024. It has had a complex history. The church burned in 1248 and was rebuilt between 1440 and 1482. A Gothic tower was added on between 1490 and 1501. The tower collapsed in 1520. It was rebuilt and a steeple was added to the top of the stone tower. The steeple was heavily damaged by storms in 1638 and again in 1683. It was repaired and put back in place in 1703. The church was "decommissioned" in 1791 during the French Revolution and in 1803 was sold to a man who used it as stables and a storage building. The steeple was finally removed for good in 1810.
Here's a photo that I somehow failed to include in my slide show.
The church building remained privately owned until the city of Rouen acquired the building in 1893 and turned it into a museum in 1911, on the 1000th anniversary of the establishment of the Duchy of Normandy. Finally, Henri (also spelled Henry by some) donated his collection of ferronerie to Rouen, on the condition that the city find an appropriate space in which to house it. The église Saint-Laurent was the place, and the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles opened in 1921. The collection grew to include more than 15,000 objets over the course of the 20th century.
Thanks to Google Maps...
The Saint-Laurent church building is located just behind the Musée des Beaux-Arts (an art museum that shouldn't be missed) at the corner of the rue Jean-Lecanuet and the rue Jacques-Villon, within easy walking distance of the train station. There is no entrance fee to view the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles permanent collection, though special exhibits may require a fee. This ironworks museum is really worth a visit if you find yourself in Rouen one day. The objects on display are interesting and the fact that the museum is in an old church building makes it really unusual and memorable.