By Geertivp – Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts about Rouen’s Notre Dame Cathedral


Rouen’s Cathedral is the most admired monument and undeniably beautiful Gothic structure. The cathedral is one of the remaining masterpieces that still exist from the 17th century.

Most of the ancient buildings that surrounded the church in the 17th century was destroyed after Viking attacks. A former church that was at this very location was also destroyed and the cathedral was built in its place.

Rouen’s Notre Dame Cathedral has the tallest spire in France with two tall towers; Tour de Beurre and Tour Saint Romain. The church was built in 1876 and has remained to be an important site in Rouen and the Normandy province.

This church also is the seat of the Archbishop of Rouen.

That said, here are the top 10 facts about Rouen’s Notre Dame Cathedral.

1. Rouen Notre Dame Cathedral spire one of the tallest in the world

By Daniel Vorndran – Wikimedia

Notre Dame Cathedral in Rouen held the record of having the tallest spire in the whole world until 1876. It is currently the fourth with Strasbourg cathedral holding the record with 1557 metres tall spire.

Rouen’s cathedral spire stands at 151 metres tall and has held this record in all of France.  Construction of the cathedral was completed in 1880. A reconstruction of the spire was done in 1876 where they added a cast iron.

This Gothic cathedral has inspired many impressionist artists like Claude Monet.

He painted more than 30 artworks of different angles of the cathedral and also during different seasons.

2. The cathedral houses the tomb of great men in history

Richard of Rouen, by Wikimedia

Great men of Normandy region have their tomb in the Cathedral. The likes of Richard the Lionheart who was the King of England, William I who was the Duke of Normandy, and Rollo who was a Viking leader and the first ruler of Normandy.

It is also believed that the bowels of Richard the lionheart was buried at the Château of Châlus-Chabrol in the Limousin. This is where he died after suffering from an injury caused by a cross bolt.

There is also a black marble tomb belonging to John Plantagenet from Lancaster, a commander who oversaw the trial of Joan of Arc. His original tomb was destroyed in the 16th century, all that is there is the black commemorative plaque.

3. The cathedral was struck by lightning several times

Have you heard of the saying; lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice? Well, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen was struck by lightning not once, not twice but several times.

The cathedral was first struck by lightning in 1110, 1284 1625, 1642 and later on in 1822. This time the Renaissance spire was destroyed and a new one was rebuilt using cast iron instead of wood. It further got destroyed by a hurricane in 1683 and the choir got burnt in 1727.

4. The cathedral was destroyed during WWII

By Jorge Láscar – Wikimedia

The cathedral was not spared during WWII. It got destroyed by bombs during the Normandy invasion. Out of the seven bombs that were thrown to the cathedral, one did not explode.

The bombs destroyed the South aisle of the nave and chapels. A pillar supporting the lantern tower and its spire were damaged too. This led to a quick repair that prevented the spire from collapsing into the building.

The nave luckily remained in place as it was supported by the flying buttresses of the chapel.

Before the bombing in June 1944, Saint Romain tower caught fire and its bell fell. It took several years to repair the cathedral which remained closed for almost a decade.

5. The Cathedral is a Gothic Architectural Masterpiece

The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Rouen got its inspiration from the Roman-style buildings of the 11th century. The roof of the cathedral has retained its Gothic gable roof even after undergoing several renovations.

Construction of the church happened when Gothic architecture was fashionable in western Europe. It was considered to be more prestigious than the Romanesque style.

Visiting the church, one will notice the essence of the development of Gothic art. This dates back to the laying of the foundation in the 4th century, the 11th-century Romanesque edifice and its 12th-century construction.

The Cathedral’s rose window that is above the central portal was built in the 14th century by Jean Perier. The pattern of the roses represents flames, which is a unique Gothic style.

6. The Cathedral has undergone several renovations

By Jorge Láscar – Wikimedia

Even after undergoing numerous renovations, the Notre Dame cathedral has retained its poise and elegance. In 1302, the old lady chapel was pulled down and a new one constructed in 1360.

After the spire was blown in 1353, they enlarged the choir windows in 1430and an upper storey was added on the north-west tower in 1477.

A violent storm that swept Rouen in 1999 left the lantern tower of the cathedral destroyed. Renovation work was completed in 2015 after the scaffolding on the west front were removed.

More renovation work was done on the spire which now changes colour. They have changed its former colour, black, to a grey with hints of green and blue tints. The colours match its history.

7. The Cathedral is the Centrepiece of Life in Rouen

You most probably know this by now, this majestic cathedral is found in the centre of Rouen city. You will find this cathedral close to other landmarks in the City.

During Christmas, the front of the cathedral serves as a market.

The cathedral is surrounded by pretty timbered houses, the Big astronomical clock built-in 1389.

the pedestrian zone located between the Gros-Horloge and the cathedral has restaurants and cafes selling the specialities of the region like macaroons.

8. The Cathedral hosts musical concerts

Since the 14th century, the Cathedral Notre-Dame has been a host to music events and concerts. The church offers amazing acoustics for music concerts.

The church is known for its organ and the choir which is well known in the whole of France. Organists from all over France and Europe play here during concerts and other special events.

It has had this tradition since the middle ages. Famous organists that have played in this cathedral include Jean Titelouze, Crespin Carlier, Robert Clicquot, Jacques Boyvin among many others.

9. The Cathedral has inspired many artists

By Camille Pissarro – Wikimedia

The most famous paintings of the cathedral were done by the Impressionist artist Claude Monet. He had more than 30 paintings of the church depicting different times of the day and weather conditions.

Two of his paintings are at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C in the United States.

There are other artists who were inspired by this cathedral and their works can be found in museums. Painter like John Ruskin, Roy Lichtenstein, Mae Babitz has their paintings of different features of the cathedral.

Frequent exhibitions of the church’s history are held to tell the different perspectives of the church. They are informative and educational.

The stained-glass window in the cathedral tells the story of St. Julien.

10. The cathedral hosted historic events

Several historical events that happened in Normandy most likely took place at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Rouen.

It is in this cathedral that the Dukes of Normandy were crowned and many of them got buried here too. Christening of famous royals and dukes were done here too.

The tombs of these great leaders can still be found in the cathedral today.