Les cathédrales de France:
Technically, la basilique-de-Saint-Denis is not a cathédrale as it is not the seat of un évêque, a bishop. However, as it was at Saint-Denis where the flying buttress and ribbed vault was first tried, all the great gothic cathedrals of France evolved from the architectural innovations of Saint-Denis, so Louis la Vache has included Saint-Denis in the series. As a contrast, he has also included la basilique-du-Sacré-Cœur not only because its XIX ème siecle Romano-Byzantine architecture is in such contrast to the gothic cathedrals of the XII et XIII ème siecles but also because it is comparable in size to les grandes cathédrales.
La Cathédrale Nôtre-Dame de Rouen is a Gothic cathedral in Rouen, in northwestern France. It is the seat of the Archévêque de Rouen, Archbishop of Rouen.
Rouen is the historical capital city of Normandie, in northwestern France, and presently the capital of the région de Haute-Normandie, Upper Normandy in the Département de Seine-Maritime. Of pre-Roman origin, it was repeatedly raided by the Norse in the IX ème siecle, became the capital of medieval Normandy in the X ème siecle. 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 XI ème siecle to the XV ème siecle. It is in Rouen that the English burnt Jeanne d'Arc in 1431. Situated on la Seine near its mouth at la Manche, the English Channel, Rouen functions as the port of Paris, handling an enormous volume of traffic. Rouen was the birthplace of the writer Gustave Flaubert. The population of the aire urbaine, metropolitan area, at the 1999 census was 518,316 inhabitants. The city proper had a population of 106,592.
Rouen Cathedral contains a tomb of Richard the Lionheart which contains his heart. His bowels were buried at the foot of the tower in Limousin, France from which was fired the crossbow bolt which killed him, and the rest of his remains were buried next to his father at Fontevraud Abbey near Chinon and Saumur, France. Richard's effigy is on top of the tomb, and his name is inscribed in Latin on the side.
La Cathédrale Nôtre-Dame de Rouen was the subject for a series of paintings by the Impressionist painter Claude Monet. In 1892 and 1893, Monet set up his easel in front of the cathedral, and day-by-day, endeavoured to capture on canvas all the nuances and variations of light at different times of day and in various types of weather. He created a unique work in the history of art, turning out some thirty paintings on the same subject, all completely different. Monet lived at Giverny which is not far from Rouen.
This is the third cathédrale to stand on this site. The first was built by évêque Mellon, first bishop of Rouen, in the third century. The second was built by Victrice, the eighth bishop of Rouen. Ransaked by Vikings, this Romanesque cathedral was started circa 1000 AD by a Viking descendant, Archbishop Robert, the son of Duke Richard I of Normandie. This deuxième cathedral was completed in 1063 and consecrated by the Archbishop Maurille.
Nôtre-Dame de Rouen is notable from an architectural standpoint for two reasons. First is that it is world-famous for the exceptionally large amount of lacy filigrée stonework on its western façade. Secondly it is unusual among the gothic cathedrals in that the roof of its nave is constructed of the rib vaults first used at la basilique-de-Saint-Denis, but the walls are not supported by flying buttresses. Thus the nave does not have the large stained glass windows that were made possible by flying buttresses. The result is a nave that is unusually dark for a gothic cathedral.
The building of the third (and current) cathedral began in 1145 on the site of the previous Romanesque cathedral, of which the crypt still remains. A hundred years later it was completely finished, but continued to be altered and embellished over the next few centuries. The façade thus provides a valuable record of the various developments in Gothic art from the middle of the XII ème siecle to the beginning of the XVI ème siecle.
The western façade, extending over a total width of 61 metres, underwent major restoration work on its upper sections over several years. When work finished in June 2003, the cathedral's remarkable collection of monumental statues could at last be seen in a glorious new lease of life.
(Perhaps you have noted in this series that the entrance to these cathédrales is always on the western façade. There is a liturgical reason for this. Whenever possible, church architects will build the church so that the nave is on an east-west axis and the altar will be placed at the east end. This is known as "liturgical east," the symbolism being that the altar is on the "Jerusalem end" of the church.)
The cathedral has (as is typical of the gothic cathedrals) two towers. Tour-Saint-Romain is 82 metres, 269 feet high. The second, the Tour de Beurre, "Butter Tower," is 75 metres, 246 feet high. The name Tour de Beurre came about because it was paid for by offerings from the members of the parish, who in return were permitted to eat butter during Lent. The name "Butter Tower" is also appropriate because Normandie is known as "the Wisconsin of France." The spire over the transept is the tallest in France. Known as la Tour Lanterne, the Lantern Tower, it contains a carillon of 56 bells, utilizes 740 tons of iron and bronze, and rises to 150 metres, 492 feet.
Time and pollution had taken their toll on these magnificent stone giants. After analysis and, in some cases, research on identifying the works and the characters portrayed, 70 monumental statues were replaced on the façade. They were restored through the remarkable efforts of sculptors either using laser, moulding and mortar for the restoration work, or directly working the stone, taken from the Seine Valley, when reproductions were required.
To enhance the whole work as effectively as possible, the Government departments involved restored the upper sections of the western façade, including the gallery, gables and end walls. The filigrée stonework richly embellishing these upper parts has now been restored, reinforced and cleaned, and stands out against the Normandie sky once more, revealing the 70 monumental statues in their magnificent architectural stone setting.
Rouen Cathedral was heavily damaged during the Second World War and has been in a permanent state of restoration for the last sixty years. Much of the damage was caused by a British bomb of 500 kilograms, 1100 pounds, that hit the north side of the apse. Winston Churchill much admired the Rouen cathedral and deeply regretted that it was a British bomb that caused some of the worst (but by no means all) of the war damage to the church. Churchill was somewhat consoled by the fact that the British bomb fell into the apse rather than the nave. Louis la Vache visited the cathedral in 2002 just after the restoration of the north transept had been completed.
Seven Lamps of Architecture