Joan of Arc burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431. Now this military leader is an honored French heroine.
In the autumn of 2019 we stayed in Chinon, France, the city, where in 1429 Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) first stepped into the public eye. We wrote about her here: Troglodytes in Chinon
After winning multiple campaigns, in 1430, she was captured in battle and brought to Rouen where she was imprisoned. She was tried for heresy (nothing to do with being a military opponent) and burned at the stake. Rouen today is filled with the story of her life and they honor this Saint and French heroine in numerous ways.
There is an unusual shaped church that was built in 1979 called the Eglise Sainte Jeanne d’Arc. Next to the church is Le Bûcher de Jeanne d’Arc, The Pyre of Joan of Arc, which marks the location of where she died. Today, planted beneath the tall cross that marks the spot of the pyre, are bright orange fire-like flowers – a type of kniphofia – that effectively represent the flames.
One formidable tower is all that remains of the Château of Rouen, built by King Philippe Auguste II in 1204-1210. Joan of Arc was captured in 1430 by the Burgundians and sold to the British who then took her to British-ruled Rouen. They held her for more than a year in the 200 year old tower before the Burgundian bishop charged her for heresy. The tower has often been called La Tour Jeanne-d’arc.
The Historial Jeanne d’Arc immersive museum opened in 2015. It is the official site of both the initial trial in 1431 as well as the rehabilitation trial 25 years later in 1456. The museum takes visitors on an emotional journey through her life, her accomplishments, her trials and her tragic death. You may leave feeling angered at the injustice.
Eighteen years after Joan of Arc’s death, Charles VII liberated Rouen in 1449 and requested that Joan of Arc’s trial be re-examined. The Pope, Callixtus III, agreed and in 1456 a new trial was opened. It quickly became apparent that the 1431 trial had been a travesty and the judges had acted in bad faith. In July 1456 Joan of Arc was exonerated. The historical trial documents have been saved to this day and describe her extraordinary true life story.
Today the city of Rouen, in Normandy has a current population of 113,000. It is situated on the River Seine halfway between Paris and the Atlantic Ocean. Rouen’s prosperity, beginning as early as the 13th century and continuing to this day, is based primarily on its monopoly of river trade on the Seine between Paris and the coastal ports.
Le Gros Horloge
One of the most photographed landmarks in Rouen is the large attractive 14th century clock inset on an arch that spans a narrow street. A single hand points to the hour. Beneath the number VI, at noon daily, a divinity in a chariot appears, showing the day of the week. The phases of the moon are shown in the round eye-like oculus above the dial. Sheep are perched everywhere indicating the importance of wool and textiles to the city.
Musée de la Céramique
The Ceramics Museum, created in 1864, was an enjoyable place to spend a couple of hours.
The earliest known French porcelain was made in Rouen between 1673 to 1696 and there are only 9 known pieces that remain from that time. As early as 1540 the city had also been a center for the production of faience or tin-glazed earthenware pottery.
The museum’s collection is made up of 5000 pieces of beautiful and interesting ceramic pieces including a lovely ceramic violin made in 1710. The picture below is of an interesting fire pot vase created in 1730 in Rouen.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
Rouen’s Fine Arts Museum was impressive with its collection of more than 800,000 objects. We were delighted to find a considerable collection of paintings by the our favorite Impressionists.
Beaux-Arts officially opened in 1809 wih 244 paintings, although the public had been able to visit as early as 1799. Over the centuries Rouen’s Beaux-Arts has received thousands of valuable donations of drawings, paintings, sculptures and objets d’art contributing to the museum’s admirable reputation.
In the link attached at the bottom we have included dozens of our favorite photos from the museum. In keeping with our Joan of Arc theme, we liked this 1895 painting by the Irish artist George William Joy (1844-1925) titled “The sleep of Joan of Arc”. It shows Joan of Arc asleep with an angel watching over her and wrapping her in her wings.
Jardin des Plantes de Rouen
Once privately owned, the 20-acre public garden opened in 1840. There was a rose garden in full fragrant bloom, iris beds, ponds, an orangery, greenhouses and interesting home interior styled rooms with plants growing all over them, like abandoned rooms. It was a lovely oasis in the heart of the city.
One morning we decided to walk down and explore Rouen’s quays along the River Seine. We learned all sorts of interesting facts, found lots of activity and the views back to the Cathedral and city were terrific. The architecture was eye-catching as well, especially this rainbow colored government office.
A three-masted tall ship, the Dar Młodzieży was moored and visitors were streaming on and off the ship. It is a Polish ‘sailing academy’, a training vessel built in 1982 and owned by the Maritime Academy in Gdynia, Poland.
Her name means “the gift of youth” and she sails with approximately 32 permanent crew and 136 students. Trainees spend one full semester of their education at sea and the Dar Młodzieży has trained tens of thousands to date. She has competes and has placed in sailing races and regattas around the world.
Château d’eau – Marégraphe / Water tower tide gauge
Next we spotted a beautiful mid size ornate brick tower that looked seemingly out of place. It is located on the Quai de Boisguilbert near the Guillaume-le-Conquérant bridge, on the right bank of the Seine. The tower was built in 1885 initially to supply hydraulic energy to the new system of hydraulic cranes in the port of Rouen. In 1893 a “clock” and a tide gauge were added.
The dial on the clock-like face is visible from the river. “It is divided into four parts by a white vertical line and a horizontal line of the same color. At the top of the clock face written in red capital letters PM (for Pleine Mer or high tide) and at the bottom in red capital letters BM (for Basse Mer or low tide). At both ends of the horizontal line are inscribed ½, meaning half tide. The red colored needle rotates clockwise around the face.”
Basically the water level within the tower would rise and lower with the tides and that information would be communicated via the clock-gauge providing the required information to the ship’s captains.
Attached to one side wall of the tower we found another interesting surprise. A memorial plaque dedicated to Robert Fulton (1765-1815) was attached to the tower. While working for the French government in 1800, American inventor Robert Fulton designed and built the “Nautilus,” in Rouen, often called the first modern submarine. His all metal 21-foot ship had a cigar-shaped hull and a hand-powered propeller to move underwater. It had a mast and sail that could be erected when on the surface and he was the first to experiment with storing compressed air for his crew. In 1800 Fulton conducted his first successful submarine experiments in France with the Nautilus.
Rouen provided us a wonderful education and we thoroughly enjoyed our fortnight in the city. We learned that in one year of leading the army, Joan of Arc decisively contributed to France’s final victory.
Court records of her trials provide evidence of the essential role she played in the evolution of her country. She is celebrated in Rouen.
Bonne santé from these Rouennaises
Ted + Julia