Friday, 8 August 2014

Rouen 2: Tour Jeanne D'Arc to Gros Horloge

The Tour Jeanne d'Arc

We completed our walking tour of Rouen (part 1 was yesterday) by making an "arc" through the western side of the city centre. We started from the imposing Joan of Arc tower. This was once the main tower of the castle built by Philip-Auguste after his conquest of Normandy in 1204. It was largely destroyed after the Wars of Religion in the 16th century. The connection with Joan was that she was imprisoned and threatened with torture here.

Not far away is the main railway station. This is a fantastic building, unaccountably not mentioned in the Michelin Guide. It is an art nouveau masterpiece! I have established that the architect was Antoine Dervaux and the sculptor Camille Lefèvre. It was inaugurated in 1928, making it already out of fashion.

Here is a detail of the central section showing the floral motifs: the lettering is more art deco.

We wandered down Rue Jeanne d'Arc and turned left into Rue des Bons Enfants to see more fine timber-framed houses. 

A sharp left turn at the end brought us into Place du Vieux Marché, a lively square dominated by the extraordinary new church of - yes - Jeanne d'Arc. Jeanne was burned alive for heresy here in 1431, although the church was only completed in 1979. Its dramatic roof is held to be reminiscent of a ship's hull, but I found myself thinking of a medieval helmet. Inside there is 16th century stained glass rescued from St Vincent's church, destroyed like much of the city in 1944.

Close by is the lovely Place de la Pucelle. The word means a virgin and is another reference to Jeanne d'Arc. The most impressive building is the Hotel Bourgtheroulde (pronounced Bourtroud). This was originally a 16th century mansion which was destroyed and rebuilt after the war and was then used as a bank.

We had a rather chilly drink in the shaded inner courtyard, which contains some lovely relief sculpture.

The rest of the square is very charming.

And one or two of the buildings have attractive art nouveau decorative details.

We crossed Rue Jeanne d'Arc and entered the Rue du Vieux Horloge. The wonderful astrological clock on its renaissance arch has stood here since 1527. The spires of the cathedral can just be glimpsed in the background.

Conditions: warm and sunny.

Distance: a couple of miles.

Rating: four stars.

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