Sitting in the northern part of France, in the Normandy region, is the ancient and beautiful Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. Rouen sites on the River Seine has been an integral part of French history since the medieval era. Rouen was an essential part of France during the middle ages as it was a seat of Anglo-Norman dynasties. The cathedral itself was built in the 1000’s with completion only being finished in the 19th century. Cathedrale Notre-Dame is an iconic part of Rouen and is symbolic to the city as it is the seat of the Archbishop of Rouen as well as the burial grounds for several important figures including Richard the Lionheart and John of Lancaster. If you’re looking to explore this amazing medieval French architecture, check out this guide to Cathedrale Notre-Dame, Rouen
Things to do
The Cathedrale Notre-Dame is an absolutely iconic piece of French Gothic architecture. Rouen was once one of the most important cities in France as it was home to the Anglo-Normand stronghold in the area. Dating back to 1030, the church was consecrated in the presence of William the Conquerer. Even before the cathedral was built, there was a church standing here, which was visited by Charlemagne, until it was destroyed in a Viking raid in the 9th century. The Cathedrale Notre-Dame was then rebuilt in 1030 and was completed in 1880.
Take a tour of the cathedral
You can take a tour of the Cathedrale Notre-Dame either individually or in groups. There are tours available that are open to a maximum of 18 people and are guided by knowledgeable people who can bring you to every place around the church that many guests might not get to see like the crypt and the baptistery. The crypt is home to some important notable historic figures like William I, Duke of Normandy, the heart of Richard I and Rollo the Viking who became the first ruler of Normandy. Reservations need to be made in advance and are done every Saturday and Sunday
Attend a concert
Since the 14th century, the Cathedrale Notre-Dame has been host to music events and concerts. Because of the amazing acoustics in the church, the local choir was known throughout the city until the French Revolution. On top of this, what the church is really known for, is its organist. The first organist was Jean Titlouze in the 16th century and over the years, several different organists and organs were played here, the most recent one being placed after WWII. To this day concerts are hosted here with organists from around France and Europe playing here as well as choir concerts and events.
Attend an exhibition
For those looking for a historical perspective of the church, there are exhibitions available hosted by the church that are informative and educational. Exhibitions like the Claude Monet tour highlights the work the French artists have made using the cathedral as a muse. Monet painted the church in several different ways in the 1800s, using different light at different hours of the day. For those who are more interested in theological history, the stained-glass window exhibition tells the story of St. Julien through stained-glass artwork
Restrictions on attire
While there aren’t any official restrictions on attire, visitors not attending any religious events should still dress a little bit modestly as it is still a holy site and a church. Clothes that cover your shoulders and legs should suffice for most of the tours or exhibitions and non-religious events.
Events like Christmas mass, Easter and other concerts are a big event for the church. These types of holidays may also interfere with their tour schedules so always check ahead of time before showing up for the event.
How to get there
Rouen is a great medieval city that is pretty compact and can be seen on foot. Since the city is over 1000 years old, most of it is laid out in a system that is not designed for cars, but designed for horses or walking. Seeing the city on foot offers the chance to see it from a different and more intimate perspective.
The most European way to get around old cities is by bike. There are rental services in the city that rent bikes for tourists at a cheap price and there is also a city-wide scheme for public bikes, where you can pick it up at one location and drop it off at another.
If motorized transport is more your thing, consider renting a scooter. Again, the streets here are compact and old, and not really designed well for cars, but scooters are small and can be easily found around the city on rent at an affordable price.
Cathedrale Notre-Dame information
Address: Place de la Cathédrale, 76000 Rouen, France
Opening hours: Mon: 2pm - 7pm; Tue - Sat: 9am - 7pm; Sun: 8am - 6pm
Official website: Cathedrale Notre-Dame
Department of Tourism: Visit France
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