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The Notre-Dame of Rouen Cathedral

Notre-Dame of Rouen

This cathedral has been standing for 5 centuries in the administrative center of Seine-Maritime. It was significantly destroyed during WWII; a 1940 fire ravaged the historic center and Royal Air Force bombings in 1955 heavily damaged the cathedral, as well as the courthouse. In fact, the period of bombing called “the Red Week” caused the deaths of 3,500 people. Nine-thousand five-hundred buildings were razed and 30,000 people lost their homes.


The Rouen Cathedral is a religious monument constructed in two phases with two distinct styles: starting in 1030 for its Roman-inspired section and in 1145 for its Gothic-inspired one. It was completed in 1506. The edifice has enjoyed the title of Historical Monument since 1862. It must be noted that the remains of King Richard the Lionheart lie in the Cathedral.

At 151 meters high and 144 meters long, it is the highest (and asymmetrical) cathedral in France since the reconstruction of its cast iron spire in 1876. The edifice is also internationally known thanks to a series of 30 impressionist paintings by French painter Claude Monet.

Another WWII Victim

The cathedral of Rouen bombed

The war was not kind to the cathedral. In 1940, a fire damaged a part of the cathedral’s structural framework. In 1944, the monument would undergo even more significant damages. Allied bombings hit the cathedral, destroying its nave and rendering more fragile an already weakened edifice that struggled to hold up its spire whose columns were ruined. Reinforcement work was quickly undertaken to prevent the spire from crumbling onto the rest of the cathedral. However, fires would cause the bell towers to fall and the nave to be completely destroyed. The fighting ended on August 30, 1944, when the German army retreated.


Restoration work was undertaken to prepare the way for reconstruction of the cathedral, which reopened in 1956. The work was long and tedious as only once the entire cathedral was stable, workers then had to repair deterioration caused by erosion and pollution.

Unfortunately, on December 26, 1999, the cathedral was again victim but this time of a winter storm. There was thus a new wave of work to be done during the first decade of the 21st century; reparation and consolidation of the cathedral’s framework, roof, flying buttresses, and bell towers.