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Rouen ( ) is the historic capital city of Normandy, in northern Francemarker on the River Seinemarker, and currently the capital of the Haute-Normandiemarker (Upper Normandy) region. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, Rouen was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages. It was one of the capitals of the Anglo-Norman dynasties, which ruled both England and large parts of modern France from the eleventh century to the 15th century. It was in Rouen where Joan of Arc was burnt in 1431. People from Rouen are called Rouennais.

The population of the metropolitan area (in French: aire urbaine) at the 1999 census was 518,316 inhabitants and 532,559 inhabitants at the 2007 estimate. The city proper has an estimated population of 110,276 in 2007.


Rouen is the capital of the Haute-Normandiemarker (Upper Normandy) région, as well as a commune and the préfecture (capital) of the Seine-Maritimemarker département.

Rouen and 44 suburban communes of the metropolitan area form the Agglomeration community of Rouen, with 405,392 inhabitants in it at the 2006 census. In descending order of population, the largest of these suburbs are Sotteville-lès-Rouenmarker, Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvraymarker, Le Grand-Quevillymarker, Le Petit-Quevillymarker, and Mont-Saint-Aignanmarker, each with a population exceeding 20,000 inhabitants.


Rouen was founded by the Gaulish tribe of the Veliocasses, who controlled a large area in the lower Seine valleymarker. They called it Ratumacos; the Romans called it Rotomagus. Roman Rotomagus was the second city of Gallia Lugdunensis after Lugdunummarker (Lyonmarker) itself. Under the reorganization of Diocletian, Rouen was the chief city of the divided province Gallia Lugdunensis II and reached the apogee of its Roman development, with an amphitheatre and thermae of which foundations remain. In the fifth century it became the seat of a bishopric, though the names of early bishops are purely legendary and later a capital of Merovingian Neustria.

From their first incursion in the lower valley of the Seine in 841, the Normans overran Rouen; from 912 Rouen was the capital of the Duchy of Normandy and residence of the dukes until William the Conqueror established his castle at Caenmarker.

In 1150 Rouen received its founding charter, permitting self-government. During the twelfth century Rouen was the site of a yeshiva; at that time, about 6,000 Jews lived in the town, comprising about 20% of the population, in addition to a large number of Jews scattered about another 100 communities in Normandy. The well-preserved remains of the yeshiva were discovered in the 1970s under the Rouen Law Courts, and the community has begun a project to restore them.

In 1200 a fire destroyed a part of the old cathedral and the present Gothic mainworks cathedral of Rouenmarker were begun. On June 24, 1204 Philip II Augustus of France entered Rouen and definitively annexed Normandy to the French Kingdom. He demolished the Norman castle and replaced it with his own, the Château Bouvreuil, built on the site of the Gallo-Roman amphitheatre. A textile industry developed, based on wool imported from England, for which the cities of Flanders and Brabant were constantly competitors, and finding its market in the Champagne fairs. Rouen depended for its prosperity also on the river traffic of the Seine, of which it enjoyed a monopoly that reached as far upstream as Parismarker. Wine and wheat were exported to England, as tin and wool received in return. In the fourteenth century urban strife threatened the city: in 1291 the mayor was assassinated and noble residences in the city were pillaged. Philip IV reimposed order and suppressed the city's charter and the lucrative monopoly on river traffic; but he was quite willing for the Rouennais to repurchase their old liberties in 1294. In 1306 he decided to expel the Jewish community of Rouen, then numbering some five or six thousands. In 1389 another urban revolt of the underclass occurred, the Harelle; it was part of widespread rebellion in France that year and was suppressed with the withdrawal of Rouen's charter and river-traffic privileges once more.

During the Hundred Years' War, on January 19, 1419, Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England, who annexed Normandy once again to the Plantagenet domains. But Rouen did not go quietly: Alain Blanchard hung English prisoners from the walls, for which he was summarily executed; Canon and Vicar General of Rouen Robert de Livet became a hero for excommunicating the English king, resulting in de Livet's imprisonment for five years in England. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen on May 30, 1431 in this city, where most inhabitants supported the duke of Burgundy, Joan of Arc's king enemy. The king of France Charles VII recaptured the town in 1449.

The city was heavily damaged during World War II on D-day and its famed cathedral was almost destroyed by Allied bombs. During the German occupation, the German Navy had its headquarters located in a chateau on the École Supérieure de Commerce de Rouen campus.

Main sights

Rouen is known for its Notre Dame cathedralmarker, with its Tour de Beurre (butter tower). The cathedral was the subject of a series of paintings by Claude Monet, some of which are exhibited in the Musée d'Orsaymarker in Parismarker.

The Gros Horloge is an astronomical clock (dating back to the 16th century) though the movement is considerably older (1389). It is located in the Gros Horloge street.

Other famous structures include the Gothic Church of Saint Maclou (15th century); the Tour Jeanne d'Arc, where Joan of Arc was brought in 1431 to be threatened with torture (contrary to popular belief, she was not imprisoned there); the Church of Saint Ouen (12th–15th century); the Palais de Justice, which was once the seat of the Parlement (French court of law) of Normandy and the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics which contains a splendid collection of faïence and porcelain for which Rouen was renowned during the 16th to 18th centuries.

Rouen is noted for its surviving half-timbered buildings.

There are many museums in Rouen: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouenmarker, an art museum with pictures of well-known painters such as Claude Monet and Géricault, Musée maritime fluvial et portuairemarker, a museum on the history of the port of Rouen and navigation, Musée des antiquités, an art and history museum with antic or gothic works, Musée de la céramique, Musée Le Secq des Tournelles...

The Jardin des Plantes de Rouenmarker is a notable botanical garden dating to 1840 in its present form; it was previously owned by Scottish banker John Law and the site of several historic balloon ascents.

In the centre of the Place du Vieux Marché is the modern church of Saint Joan of Arc. This is a large, modern structure which dominates the square. The form of the building represents the pyre on which Joan of Arc was burnt.

Rouen was also home to the French Grand Prixmarker, hosting the race at the nearby Rouen-Les-Essartsmarker track sporadically between 1952 and 1968. Much of the former circuit was extant into recent years, before a campaign in 1999 by Rouen authorities to obliterate remainders of Rouen's racing past. Today, little remains beyond the public roads that formed the circuit.


Mainline train services operate from Gare de Rouen-Rive-Droitemarker to Le Havremarker and Parismarker. Regional services operate to Caenmarker, Dieppe, and other local destinations in Normandy. Daily direct trains operate to Amiensmarker and Lillemarker, and direct TGVs (high-speed trains) connect daily with Lyonmarker and Marseillemarker.

City transportation in Rouen is served by the métro. It branches into two lines out of a metro tunnel running through the city center. Rouen is also served by TEOR and buses run in conjunction with the tramway by the transit company TCAR , a subsidiary of Veolia Transport.

Rouen has its own airportmarker, serving major domestic destinations as well as international destinations in Europe.

The Seinemarker is a major axis for maritime (cargo) links in the Port of Rouen; and the Cross-Channel ferry ports of Caenmarker, Le Havremarker, Dieppe (50 minutes), and Calaismarker, and the Channel Tunnelmarker are also within easy driving distance (i.e. two and a half hours or less).


Higher education in Rouen is provided by the University of Rouen, the École Supérieure de Commerce de Rouen (Rouen Business School) and ésitpa (agronomy and agriculture) - all centred or located at nearby Mont-Saint-Aignanmarker, and INSA Rouen and ESIGELEC - both at nearby Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvraymarker.


Tour des archives.
Rouen zénith
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In fiction and popular culture

Fine art

The Rouen Cathedral was the subject for a series of paintings by the Impressionist painter Claude Monet, who painted the same scene at different times of the day. Two paintings are in the National Gallery of Artmarker in Washington, D.C.marker; one is in the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrademarker. The estimated value of one painting is over $40 million.


  • The character Erik, or The Opera Ghost of Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera was supposedly born in Rouen.
  • Rouen also played a major part in the Flaubert novel "Madame Bovary".
  • Maupassant, a student of Flaubert, wrote a number of short stories based in and around Rouen.
  • In book two of The Strongbow Saga, the Vikings invade and conquer Ruda, also known as Rouen and make it their base in Frankia.


The Britishmarker band Supergrass named their fifth studio album Road to Rouen, punning on an Anglicised version of the city name's pronunciation.


In the 2001 movie A Knight's Tale, the protagonist William Thatcher played by Heath Ledger poses as a noble and competes in his first jousting tournament at Rouen.

Computer games


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