Rouen lies along the River Seine and is the capital of the Normandy region.
The city was founded by a Gaulish tribe before the Romans came to France. It was later developed by the Romans. In the Middle Ages, the Vikings came to Rouen. Indeed, the Viking leader Rollo, who became the 1st Duke of Normandy was baptized in Rouen and the city became the capital of the Duchy of Normandy. It was annexed to France in 1204.
Rouen was one of the most prosperous cities in France during the Middle Ages. Its position on the Seine allowed it to be a port and wool was imported from England. This led to a flourishing textile industry.
During World War II, Rouen was occupied by the Germans. Nearly half of the city was damaged. However, many of the city’s half timbered buildings remain.
Today, the city has a population of over 110,000.
Joan of Arc Execution Site
During the Hundred Years War between England and France, most of northern France came under the control of the English and their Burgundian allies. A young farm girl, Joan of Arc (Jean d'Arc) had a vision in which three saints instructed her to assist the French King in defeating the English. At first, Joan's claims were scoffed at but her sincerity and her knowledge of events that could not have been known to a peasant girl convinced the king that she was divinely-inspired. Furthermore, the French had been only known defeat for a generation and the army was dispirited. Desperate, the king agreed to allow Joan to go to Orleans, which was then under siege and about to fall. The arrival of this armor-clad young girl reinvigorated the army and a few days later the siege was lifted. She then participated in several successful military campaigns that liberated substantial territory.
However, Joan was eventually captured by Burgundian forces and turned over to the English, who were headquartered in Rouen. A sham trial was conducted. Joan was found guilty of heresy and condemned to death.
On May 30, 1491, Joan was taken to the Vieux-Marché in Rouen and burnt at the stake. A modern church, the St. Joan of Arc church, and a memorial mark the place where she was executed.
Musee des Beaux Arts
Not far from the market square where Joan of Arc died is the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen. Founded just after the French Revolution, the museum contains an extensive collection of European art including works by the Impressionist masters. (See our separate profile of the museum).
Rouen has several other museums including a museum on the history of the port, a history museum, a ceramics museum and a museum focusing on French ironwork.
Cruise destination Northern France - Giverny and Rouen