Rouen

Jan Leeming

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

ROUEN

Date: 29th October 2013

ROUEN

I asked my friends if they would mind visiting Rouen. I wanted to see the Cathedral, and the tomb which holds the heart of Richard the Lionheart (Richard 1st). For the life of me I have no idea why his heart is buried there. The wound which went Septic and caused his death was delivered at Chalus and his tomb is with that of his father Henry 11 and his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I also wished to see the place where Joan of Arc stood trial and the place of her martyrdom.

Getting directions was not easy. I have been told that the English ?eat to live? and the French ?live to eat? - so sure enough the Mairie and the Tourist office were firmly shut, it being lunchtime.

Rouen was an absolute eye opener. Nothing prepares you for the vast area of Mediaeval cobbled streets and the half timbered buildings. It is so overwhelming I wondered if we?d wandered onto a film set.

It?s a so and so of a city to make your way around by car - the P signs for Parking seem to magically disappear. We did however finally make our way to a huge underground Car Park and as we emerged from the gloom I gleefully announced that we had come out in front of the Mairie so we?d be able to get our information. Nope - just as we approached the doors, an officious looking gent shut them  and gave no quarter.

There was a huge and magnificent edifice adjacent to the Mairie and we trooped in. There are no admission fees to Cathedrals and Churches in France because they are State owned and maintained. The Edifice was strangely ?un-busy? and it was only after asking at the desk to be directed to the tomb of Richard 1, that we were politely told we weren?t in the Cathedral but the Abbey Church.

As we wandered through the cobbled streets towards the Cathedral of Notre Dame, I couldn?t help noticing how clean were the streets - no litter anywhere. Does this mean the people are proud of their town and take care or do the Council pay enough people to maintain a high standard.

(I have been appalled recently at the state of Canterbury streets. In general they are grubby and the Central Reservation in St. George?s Place is shoulder high in weeds. Ok, so if the council can?t afford flowers etc. the least they could do is cut the weeds. Canterbury is a major tourist city for heaven?s sake - so what kind of impression does this give the visitors. Thank goodness it is winter and the burger stalls have packed up. I loathe the smell of cooked onions wafting over our beautiful city. Winter has brought a lovely young man to the City who runs a stall reminiscent of my beloved Provence - sugar coated almonds and peanuts with the aroma of the cooking sugar so much more pleasant than the smell of armpit/onions)

Rouen Cathedral is almost entirely robed in scaffolding and is a mish-mash of styles having been hit by lightning on several occasions and been buffeted by wars.
I was very pleased to view the tomb of Richard Coeur de Lion - and as I said earlier it is only his Coeur which is in the tomb but it is quite impressive nevertheless.

Although I very much enjoy visiting Cathedrals and have done so many times this year, none approach in beauty and majesty our own Canterbury Cathedral. Strangely, the Puritans almost did the Cathedral a favour when they whitewashed the frescoes because one can really appreciate the architecture unadorned with rainbow colouring.
Outside, the Caen stone, sadly very porous and always in need of repair, is so rich and glorious especially when the sun shines on it and inside the magnificent architecture takes your breath away.

As you know I?m a great Francophile and I love the French influence in the Quire and Trinity Chapel designed by William of Sens.

Our Cathedral has a phenomenal number of stairs leading onward and upward and culminating in the level which before the destruction ordered by Henry VIII housed the Shrine of Thomas Becket, flanked by the tombs of The Black Prince and Henry IV. The Cathedral has very clean lines not cluttered with tombs and chantry chapels dotted everywhere.   Although I very much enjoyed my visit to Westminster Abbey last year, I found it cluttered - there?s so much to see that you miss the beauty of many of the tombs. It is rather like a very grand Pound Store jam packed with goodies. If I go again I shall have a small list of the Tombs I most want to see and simply make a Bee-line for those.

But back to Rouen. On an outside wall of the Cathedral there is a plaque announcing that it was here the Maid of Orleans was brought to trial. The actual place of her martyrdom was a ten minute walk away and it was impossible to get a sense of the grimness of the place because it was market day and there were stalls surrounding the rather Hobgoblinesque Church dedicated to the Saint.

We were pushed for time and our visit was not long enough but Rouen is certainly a place which warrants a longer visit.

This tomb in Rouen Cathedral houses the heart of Richard the Lionheart - his body was buried at the feet of his father Henry II. At the Abbey of Fontevraud you can still see the effigies from the tombs of Richard, Henry and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine as well as that of Isabella of Angouleme. Their mortal remains were probably destroyed during the French Revolution.  

ROUEN

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