I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Thursday, 7 July 2016

France 2016 - Day 23 (Rouen and Le Havre)

Today was our last day and a visit to Rouen.  We had a coffee beside the cathedral (yes another cathedral!) and then went in.



The first cathedral at Rouen was built in 396 by Bishop Victricius. This was destroyed by the invading Normans, who replaced it with a larger cathedral with a wooden vault. Consecrated in 1063 in the presence of William the Conqueror, all that remains of this building is the crypt beneath the choir.

Rouen Cathedral was rebuilt in 1145 by Bishop Hugues d'Amiens based on the new Gothic style. After devastating fire in 1200 destroyed all but the nave arcades, the Saint-Romain tower and the left portal, reconstruction began immediately. The choir and remainder of the cathedral were built in the more mature Gothic style of the 13th century, completed around 1250.

In the 15th century, the facade of the cathedral was given in a makeover in the Flamboyant Gothic style of the day.

Other towers, spires and vertical extensions were added over the years, most notably the Tour Lanterne of 1876. With that great spire, Rouen Cathedral became the tallest building in the world (but it only the held the record until 1880).

In 1892 and 1893, Claude Monet could usually be found with his canvas set up next to the cathedral's facade. During those two years he created some 30 paintings of the facade in a variety of lighting and weather conditions, providing a beautiful study of the play of light in Gothic architecture and sculpture.

Rouen Cathedral narrowly escaped destruction in World War II - it took several direct hits from bombs in 1944, which narrowly missed destroying key pillars. Another setback occurred on December 26, 1999, when one of the pinnacles fell down in a storm, damaging the vault and choir stalls.


The first cathedral at Rouen was built in 396 by Bishop Victricius. This was destroyed by the invading Normans, who replaced it with a larger cathedral with a wooden vault. Consecrated in 1063 in the presence of William the Conqueror, all that remains of this building is the crypt beneath the choir.

Rouen Cathedral was rebuilt in 1145 by Bishop Hugues d'Amiens based on the new Gothic style.  After a devastating fire in 1200 destroyed all but the nave arcades, the Saint-Romain tower and the left portal, reconstruction began immediately. The choir and remainder of the cathedral were built in the more mature Gothic style of the 13th century, completed around 1250.



In the 15th century, the facade of the cathedral was given in a makeover in the Flamboyant Gothic style of the day.

Other towers, spires and vertical extensions were added over the years, most notably the Tour Lanterne of 1876. With that great spire, Rouen Cathedral became the tallest building in the world (but it only the held the record until 1880).


In 1892 and 1893, Claude Monet could usually be found with his canvas set up next to the cathedral's facade. During those two years he created some 30 paintings of the facade in a variety of lighting and weather conditions, providing a beautiful study of the play of light in Gothic architecture and sculpture.

Rouen Cathedral narrowly escaped destruction in World War II - it took several direct hits from bombs in 1944, which narrowly missed destroying key pillars. Another setback occurred on December 26, 1999, when one of the pinnacles fell down in a storm, damaging the vault and choir stalls.



We were entertained in the cathedral by the St. Cecilia Chorus from Banstead, Surrey. Formed in 1922  they were excellent and a lovely accompaniment to our visit.



I lit a candle for a special and brave lady who is very unwell.  Rouen is the city of Joan of Arc who was the bravest ladies of her time.


The outside of the cathedral is just as ornate as most of the others we have seen.



Rouen was heavily damaged during World War II - approximately 45% of the city was destroyed. In June 1940 the area between the Rouen Cathedral and the Seine river burned for 48 hours as the Nazis did not allow firemen access to the fire. Other areas were destroyed between March and August 1944 just before and during the Battle of Normandy, which ended on the left bank of the Seine with the destruction of several regiments belonging to the German 7th Army. The cathedral and several significant monuments were damaged by Allied bombing. During the German occupation, Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine had its headquarters in a château in the city. Rouen was liberated by the Canadians on 30 August 1944 after the breakout from Normandy.




This is the Gros Horloge - a clock which has been installed in a Renaissance arch crossing the Rue du Gros-Horloge. The mechanism is one of the oldest in France, the movement was made in 1389.  The clock was originally constructed without a dial, with one revolution of the hour-hand representing twenty-four hours. The movement is cast in wrought iron and is perhaps the largest such mechanism still extant.  A facade was added in 1529 when the clock was moved to its current position. The Renaissance facade represents a golden sun with 24 rays on a starry blue background. The dial measures 2.5 metres in diameter.  The phases of the moon are shown in the oculus of the upper part of the dial. It completes a full rotation in 29 days. The week days are shown in an opening at the base of the dial with allegorical subjects for each day of the week.  The mechanism was electrified in the 1920s and it was restored in 1997.






In the centre of the Place du Vieux Marché (the site of Joan of Arc's pyre) is the modern church of Saint Joan of Arc. This is a large, modern structure which dominates the square. The form of the building represents an upturned viking boat and a fish shape.





Our last port of call was Le Musee Jeanne D’Arc which opened in March 2015. It is a museum like no other I have ever been to.  The building is very old and the truth about Joan of Arc’s life is provided through a long visit of several "rooms" and several excellent videos which bring the visitor through the "trial/process in revision" of Joan.  The trial was held in Rouen and in one of the rooms we visited but I’m not sure which one! The tour is based on historical facts and on the trial's minutes kept at the French "Bibiothèque Nationale (French State Library)" in Paris.  The guided visit lasts about 90 minutes.




It was then back to the caravan.  We had been allowed to remain on our pitch for free until 7pm.  The journey to Le Havre is about 75 minutes and we were soon queuing to get onto the ferry.  We were on the Baie de Seine, a rather strange cross channel ferry as you have to embark and disembark at the same end.  This means that everyone has to turn round at some stage.  We were directed to our spot - nose to nose with a rather large lorry!  We were also outside.


We found our cabin - the four of us were sharing which we were rather concerned about but in fact we had an outside cabin and it was quite large.  We could see our vehicles from the window.


We managed to get about 5 hours sleep before the sea started to get a little rough and woke us all up.  To get off the ship we had to reverse back - thank goodness Richard is good at reversing!  The guy next to us was very worried and spent quite a long time trying to get into a position to get off.  Jim had to unhitch the little Fiat as it won't reverse and reverse both vehicles separately.  

We waved goodbye to Penny and Jim and left the ship and Portsmouth and drove the few miles back home where we were greeted by Muffin and Victoria.

We have had a wonderful holiday and an amazing road trip. 1765 driving miles and about 65 boating miles. 7 Cathedrals in 7 cities.  2 chateaux and 1 castle. 1 champagne cave and 1 ruined abbey.  2 museums.  I daren't even think about how many baguettes and bottles of wine were consumed but what I do know is that we had a brilliant holiday.

We will be returning to Mary H on July 13th and heading north up the Grand Union.  We hope to catch up with some old friends and hopefully make some new ones along our way.

PS I'm sorry about the changes in font size - I'm not sure why this has happened.

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