There are so many Catholic churches in Europe that it may feel like they blur together once you’ve seen most of them. However, Eglise Jeanne D'Arc in Rouen, France, is sure to stand out. This church was constructed in the 1970s and has a modern, contemporary design. Instead of traditional flying buttresses, towers, and steeples like you might see on a classic church, it looks more like a modern art installation. Its shape was inspired by an overturned boat, and it curves and twists toward the sky. Inside, the boat theme is repeated and complemented by a wall of stunning 16th-century stained glass rescued from a church that was bombed in World War II. Read on for a complete guide to Eglise Jeanne D'Arc, Rouen and be sure to add this unique place to your itinerary when visiting France.
Things to do / Highlights
Jeanne D'Arc, or Joan of Arc, is an iconic figure in French history for her role in the Hundred Years War. Jeanne was only a teenager when she began seeing visions of saints urging her to go to Charles VII and help drive the English out of France. She eventually did meet Charles VII and convinced him to let her lead an army to Orléans, where they won a battle against the English. She became a powerful leader and led several campaigns to take back towns from the British and helped Charles VII to be properly crowned. However, she was captured by the English, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake in May 1431. It has been widely disputed whether she was executed in the old marketplace of Rouen, where the church bearing her name now stands, but it was a place of significance, and it’s fitting that her church should be erected there. Aside from being a tribute to this heroine, the church is a must-see for several reasons.
Admire the modern architecture
From its exterior, Eglise Jeanne D’ Arc doesn’t look much like a church. The building is a modern structure that was completed in 1979. It was designed by architect Louis Arretche, who was chosen to design the building after winning a competition. Arretche did not have an easy task ahead of him: he had to honor Jeanne D'Arc and the ruined St. Vincent Church while incorporating its preserved stained glass windows into the design, all at the center of a busy market square. Arretche rejected the ideas of what a traditional church looked like and instead used the shape of an overturned boat to inspire his work. The exterior is a mix of curves and angles that twist upward like flames, all covered in copper and slate scales evocative of the sea. Inside, the ceiling of the church looks like a boat under construction, with wooden beams rising to its peak like ribs. The design is daring and divisive, but all can agree that it is a thought-provoking and unique way to incorporate old elements into a contemporary structure.
Check out the stained glass windows
One of the most magnificent things about Eglise Jeanne D'Arc is the stained glass windows. They demonstrate the harmonious combination of old artwork in a modern setting. The windows at the church were actually created for St. Vincent Church and date back to the 1500s. St. Vincent was destroyed by a bomb in World War II, but the church removed and protected the windows beforehand to keep them safe. They were installed into a custom-made aluminum structure that took many hours and technical skills to construct. To continue preserving the stained glass, the windows are protected by armored glazing on the outside, and there is a ventilation system installed between the glazing and the glass to prevent the colors from fading. Upon looking at the stained glass, it’s easy to see why such precautions were taken to preserve them. There are 13 window panels in total.
See the Jeanne au bûcher statue
Another of the Eglise Jeanne D'Arc’s treasures is Jeanne au bûcher. This stone statue of Jeanne D'Arc was sculpted by artist Maxime Real del Sarte in 1929. One of the reasons Eglise Jeanne D'Arc was constructed was to house this stunning piece of art. The statue depicts Jeanne D'Arc at the moment of her execution, with flames crawling up her skirt and her hands folded in prayer. Real del Sarte sculpted many depictions of Jeanne D'Arc, but this is the most famous, and copies of it exist in Montreal and Buenos Aires.
One of the best ways to connect with Eglise Jeanne D'Arc spiritually is to attend a mass. The church has services throughout the week and all are welcome to worship. There are also smaller chapels where visitors can pray outside of service hours.
How to get there
Rouen has a great public transit system and there are many stops near this iconic landmark. By metro, the nearest stop is Palais de Justice, just a couple of blocks from Eglise Jeanne D'Arc. There are also two bus options. Take the route 8 city bus to Palais de Justice. You can also take the TEOR, a rapid transit bus system, to the Théâtre des Arts stop.
Biking is a great way to explore the historic city of Rouen. There is a popular bike rental service called Cy'Clic, which has stops around the city where you can rent and park bikes. The closest Cy'Clic stop to Eglise Jeanne D'Arc is at Place du Vieux Marché.
If you plan on driving to Eglise Jeanne D'Arc, there is a nearby parking garage. It is located on Place du Vieux Marché, just one block over from the church.
Eglise Jeanne D'Arc information
Eglise Jeanne D'Arc
Address: Place du Vieux Marché, 76000 Rouen, France
Opening hours: Mon - Thu, Sat: 10am - 12pm, 2pm - 6pm; Fri - Sun: 2pm - 6pm
Website: Eglise Jeanne D'Arc
Board of tourism: France
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