page from sketchbook
Rouen is a city on the River Seine in the north of France. It is the capital of the region of Upper Normandy and the historic capital city of Normandy. One of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, it 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 11th to the 15th centuries. It was here that Joan of Arc was executed in 1431. People from Rouen are called Rouennais.
Unknown to Julius Caesar, Rouen was founded by the Gaulish tribe of the Veliocasses, who controlled a large area in the lower Seine valley, which retains a trace of their name as the Vexin. They called it Ratumacos; the Romans called it Rotomagus. Roman Rotomagus was the second city of Gallia Lugdunensis after Lugdunum (Lyon) itself. Under the reorganization of the empire by Diocletian, Rouen became the chief city of the divided province of Gallia Lugdunensis II and reached the apogee of its Roman development, with an amphitheatre and thermae of which the foundations remain. In the 5th century, it became the seat of a bishopric and later a capital of Merovingian Neustria.
From their first incursion into the lower valley of the Seine in 841, the Vikings overran Rouen until some of them finally settled and founded a colony led by Rollo (Hrolfr), who was nominated count of Rouen by the king of the Franks in 911. In the 10th century Rouen became the capital of the Duchy of Normandy and residence of the dukes, until William the Conqueror established his castle at Caen. In the early 12th century the city's population reached the size of 30,000. In 1150, Rouen received its founding charter, which permitted self-government. During the 12th century, Rouen was probably the site of a Jewish yeshiva. At that time, about 6,000 Jews lived in the town, comprising about 20% of the total population. In addition, there were a large number of Jews scattered about another 100 communities in Normandy. The well-preserved remains of a medieval Jewish building, that could be a yeshiva, were discovered in the 1970s under the Rouen Law Courts.
In 1200, a fire destroyed part of the old Romanesque cathedral, leaving St Romain's tower, the side porches of the front, and part of the nave. New work on the present Gothic cathedral of Rouen was begun, in the nave, transept, choir, and the lowest section of the lantern tower. On 24 June 1204, Philip II Augustus of France entered Rouen and annexed Normandy to the French Kingdom. The fall of Rouen meant the end of Normandy's sovereign status. 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 northern County of Flanders and Duchy of Brabant were constantly fierce but worthy competitors, and finding its market in the Champagne fairs. Rouen also depended for its prosperity on the river traffic of the Seine, on which it enjoyed a monopoly that reached as far upstream as Paris. Wine and wheat were exported to England, with tin and wool received in return.
In the 14th 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 to allow the Rouennais to repurchase their former liberties in 1294. In 1306, he decided to expel the Jewish community of Rouen, which then numbered some five or six thousand in the city of 40,000 people. In 1389, another urban revolt of the underclass broke out, the Harelle. It was part of a 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 19 January 1419, Rouen and its population of 70,000 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; the Canon and Vicar General of Rouen, Robert de Livet, became a hero for excommunicating the English king, resulting shortly after in de Livet's himself imprisonment for five years in England. Rouen became the capital city of English power in occupied France and when the Duke of Bedford, John of Lancaster bought Joan of Arc from his ally, the Duke of Burgundy who had been keeping her in jail since May 1430, she was sent to be tried in this city on Christmas 1430. After a long trial by a church court, sentenced to be burned at the stake. The sentence was carried out on 30 May 1431 in this city, where most inhabitants supported the Duke of Burgundy, Joan of Arc's royal enemy. The king of France Charles VII recaptured the town in 1449, 18 years after the death of Joan of Arc and after 30 years of English occupation. In that same year the young Henry VI was crowned king of England and France in Paris before coming to Rouen where he was acclaimed by the crowds.
The naval dockyards, where activity had been slowed down by the 100 years war, developed again as did the church of Saint-Maclou which had been started under the English occupation, and was finally finished during the Renaissance period. The nave of the church of Saint Ouen was completed at last, but without the façade flanked by twin towers. The salle des pas-perdus (a sort of waiting room or ante-room) of the present law courts was built during this time. The whole building was built in a flamboyant style into which the first decorative elements typical of the Renaissance style right at the beginning of the 16th century had been incorporated. At that time Rouen was the most populous city in the realm after Paris, Marseille and Lyon. Rouen was also one of the Norman cradles of the artistic Renaissance, in particular the one under the patronage of the archbishops and financiers of the town.
The economic upturn of the town at the end of the 15th century was mainly due to the cloth industry, but also to the development of the silk industry and metallurgy. The fishermen of Rouen went as far afield as the Baltic to fish for herrings. Salt was imported from Portugal and Guérande. Cloth was sold in Spain which also provided wool, and the Medici family made Rouen into the main port for the resale of Roman alum. At the beginning of the 16th century Rouen became the main French port through which trade was conducted with Brasil, principally for the import of cloth dyes. By 1500 ten printing presses had been installed in the town following the installation of the first one sixteen years earlier. In the years following 1530, part of the population of Rouen embraced Calvinism. The members of the Reformed Church who represented a quarter to a third of the total population, a significant part but still a minority. In 1550, King Henri II staged a triumphant entry into Rouen, modeled on the ancient Roman triumph and specifically compared to Pompey's third triumph of 61 BC at Rome: "No less pleasing and delectable than the third triumph of Pompey... magnificent in riches and abounding in the spoils of foreign nations". It was not enough, however, to long sustain royal authority in the city.
From 1560 onwards tensions rose between the Protestant and Catholic communities, when the Massacre of Vassy set off the first of the French Wars of Religion. On 15 April 1562 the Protestants entered the town hall and ejected the King's personal representative. In May there was an outbreak of Iconoclasm (statue smashing). On 10 May the Catholic members of the town council fled Rouen. The Catholics captured, however, the Fort of Saint Catherine which overlooked the town. Both sides resorted to terror tactics. At this juncture the Protestant town authorities requested help from Queen Elizabeth I of England. In accordance with the Hampton Court Treaty which they had signed with Condé on 20 September 1562, the English sent troops to support the Protestants, and these occupied Le Havre. On 26 October 1562 French Royalist troops retook Rouen and pillaged it for three days. The news of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day reached Rouen at the end of August 1572. Hennequier tried to avoid a massacre of the Protestants by shutting them up in various prisons. But between 17 and 20 September the crowds forced the gates of the prisons and murdered the Protestants that they found inside.
The town was attacked on several occasions by Henry IV, but it resisted, notably during the siege of December 1591 to May 1592, with the help of a Spanish army led by the Duke of Parma (see Siege of Rouen (1591)). The permanent exchequer of Normandy, which had been installed in Rouen in 1499 by George of Amboise, was transformed into a regional administrative assembly by Francis I in 1515 and up to the time of the Revolution was the administrative centre of the region. It had judicial, legislative and executive powers in Norman affairs and was only subordinate to the Privy Council. It also had power to govern French Canada. The 16th and the 18th centuries brought prosperity to the town through the textile trade and the increased use of the port facilities. In 1703 the Norman Chamber of Commerce was formed. Although it did not have a university, Rouen became an important intellectual centre by reason of its reputed schools of higher learning. In 1734, a school of surgery (second only to that of Paris founded in 1724) was founded. In 1758 a new hospital was opened to the West of the town which replaced the old medieval one which had grown too small, and which had been situated on the south side of the cathedral.
During the First World War the British used Rouen as a supply base and there were many military hospitals. The city was heavily damaged during World War II - approximately 45% was destroyed. In June 1940 the area between the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Seine river burned for 48 hours because the Germans did not allow firemen access to the fire. Other areas were destroyed between March and August 1944 just before and during the Battle of Normandy, which ended on the left bank of the Seine with the destruction of several regiments belonging to the German 7th Army. Rouen's cathedral and several significant monuments were damaged by Allied bombing. During the German occupation, Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine had its headquarters located in a château on what is now the Rouen Business School (École Supérieure de Commerce de Rouen). The city was liberated by the Canadians on 30 August 1944 after the breakout from Normandy.
A church was already present at the location in the late 4th century, and eventually a cathedral was established in Rouen as in Poitiers. It was enlarged by St. Ouen in 650, and visited by Charlemagne in 769.All the buildings perished during a Viking raid in the 9th century. The Viking leader, Rollo, founder of the Duchy of Normandy, was baptised here in 915 and buried in 931. His grandson, Richard I, further enlarged it in 950. St. Romain's tower was built in 1035. The buildings of Archbishop Robert II were consecrated in 1065. The cathedral was struck by lightning in 1110. Construction on the current building began in the 12th century in Early Gothic style for Saint Romain's tower, front side porches and part of the nave. The cathedral was burnt in 1200. Others were built in High Gothic style for the mainworks: nave, transept, choir and first floor of the lantern tower in the 13th century; side chapels, lady chapel and side doorways in the 14th century. Some windows are still decorated with stained glass of the 13th century, famous because of a special cobalt blue colour, known as "the blue from Chartres". The north transept end commenced in 1280. The cathedral was again struck by lightning in 1284. In 1302, the old Lady chapel was taken down and the new Lady chapel was built in 1360. The spire was blown down in 1353, choir windows were enlarged in 1430, the upper storey of the north-west tower was added in 1477, gable of the north transept built in 1478. Some more parts were built in Late (Flamboyant) Gothic style, these include the last storey of Saint Romain's Tower (15th century), the Butter Tower, main porch of the front and the two storeys of the lantern tower (16th century).Construction of the south-west tower began in 1485 and was finished in 1507. The Butter Tower was erected in the early 16th century. Butter was banned during Lent and those who did not wish to forgo this indulgence would donate monies of six deniers Tournois from each diocesan for this permission.
The realization of the Butter Tower caused disturbances in the façade, which caused the reconstruction of the central portal and the west front, which begun in 1509 and finished in 1530. The original Gothic spire suffered a fire in 1514, nevertheless the project of a stone spire was denied and a wooden construction covered with gold-plated lead was begun in 1515, a parapet was added in 1580.In the late 16th century the cathedral was badly damaged during the French Wars of Religion: the Calvinists damaged much of the furniture, tombs, stained-glass windows and statuary. The cathedral was again struck by lightning in 1625 and 1642, then damaged by a hurricane in 1683, the wood-work of the choir burnt in 1727 and the bell broke in 1786. In the 18th century, the state (government) nationalised the building and sold some of its furniture and statues to make money and the chapel fences were melted down to make guns to support the wars of the French Republic.
The Renaissance spire was destroyed by lightning in 1822. A new one was rebuilt in Neo-Gothic style, but of other material : cast iron. The cathedral was named the tallest building (the lantern tower with the cast iron spire of the 19th century) in the world (151 m) from 1876 to 1880. In the 20th century, during World War II, the cathedral was bombed in April 1944 by the British Royal Air Force. Seven bombs fell on the building, narrowly missing a key pillar of the lantern tower, but damaging much of the south aisle and destroying two rose windows. One of the bombs did not explode. A second bombing by the U.S. Army Air Force (before the Normandy Landings in June 1944) burned the oldest tower, called the North Tower or Saint-Romain Tower. During the fire the bells melted, leaving molten remains on the floor. In 1999, during a violent wind storm, a copper-clad wooden turret, which weighed 26 tons, broke and fell partly into the church and damaged the choir.
The cathedral has a strong musical tradition since the Middle Ages. Its choir was famous up to the French Revolution for singing from memory. The first major organist to work here was Jean Titelouze, the so-called father of the French organ school. He occupied the post of the titular organist in 1588–1633. Around 1600 in collaboration with the famous Franco-Flemish organ builder Crespin Carlier, Titelouze transformed the organ of the cathedral to one of the best instruments in France. Some 80 years later the legendary organ builder Robert Clicquot restored and enhanced the instrument; organists who played the new organ included distinguished composers such as Jacques Boyvin (in 1674–1706), and François d'Agincourt (1706–1758). New organs were built by Merklin & Schütze (1858–60) and, after World War II, by Jacquot-Lavergne.
The most famous paintings of the cathedral were done by the Impressionist artist Claude Monet, who produced a series of paintings of the building showing the same scene at different times of the day and in different weather conditions. Two paintings are in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; one is in the Getty Center in Los Angeles, CA; one is in the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade; one is in a museum of Cologne; one is in the Rouen fine art museum; and five are in the musée d'Orsay in Paris. The estimated value of one painting is over $40 million. Other painters inspired by the building included John Ruskin, who selected it as an example of good architecture in The Seven Lamps of Architecture, and Roy Lichtenstein, who produced a series of pictures representing the cathedral's front. Mae Babitz, known for illustrations of the Watts Towers and Victorian era buildings in Los Angeles, illustrated the Cathedral in the 1960s. Those works are held in the UCLA library Special Collections.
Boys was born at Pentonville, London, on 2 January 1803. He was articled to the engraver George Cooke. When his apprenticeship came to an end he went to Paris where he met and came under the influence of Richard Parkes Bonington, who persuaded him to abandon engraving for painting. Some sources describe him as a pupil of Bonington, although William Callow, who later shared a studio with him in Paris, disputed this.
He exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time in 1824, and in Paris in 1827. In 1830 he went to Brussels, but returned to England on the outbreak of the revolution there. Paying another visit to Paris, he remained there until 1837, and then returned to England in order to lithograph the works of David Roberts and Clarkson Stanfield.
His most important work, Picturesque Architecture in Paris, Ghent, Antwerp, Rouen, etc., a collection of colour lithographs, appeared in 1839, attracting a great deal of admiration.Drawn on the stone by Boys and printed by Charles Joseph Hullmandel, it was described in a review in the Polytechnic Journal as "the first successful effort in chroma-lithography hitherto brought to perfection". King Louis-Philippe sent the artist a ring in recognition of its merits. He also published Original Views of London as it is, drawn and lithographed by himself, (London, 1843). He drew the illustrations to Blackie's History of England, and etched some plates for John Ruskin's Stones of Venice.
Boys was a member of the Institute of Painters in Water Colours, and of several foreign artistic societies. He died in 1874.