Sculptures - Facade of Notre-Dame Cathedral in RouenSculptures - Facade of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Rouen
©Sculptures - Facade of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Rouen

The Cathedral, intimate and flamboyant

It is one of the most famous Gothic cathedrals in the world thanks to the series of paintings that Claude Monet, the master of the Impressionists, dedicated to it. In the heart of the historic city, Rouen Cathedral sums up the evolution of Gothic art, since the beginning of its construction in the 12th century, on the foundations of a 4th century basilica and an 11th century Romanesque complex.

A flamboyant icon

Destroyed during the Vikings invasions in 841 and then partially, in 1944, by the Allied bombardments, Rouen Cathedral is a living building in perpetual evolution. It is also considered “the most human of cathedrals” due to its asymmetrical western facade, a true testament to 700 years of architectural evolution, the result of the labor of several generations of craftsmen.

Watch the 12th-century St. Roman Tower, which houses the most imposing carillon in France. Observe the decorations of the portal des Libraires and that of the Calende dating from the 14th century. Contemplate the beauty of the western facade with its unusual width of 61m and 70 carved figures. Amuse yourself at the Butter Tower, which since the 16th century has taken its name from donations made by diocesans to obtain the right to eat butter during Lent. And get giddy at the cast iron spire, built in the 19th century, which rises to 151m.

One of the most famous Gothic cathedrals in the world

It is an exceptional journey through the Gothic period that Rouen Notre-Dame Cathedral offers us. Here we can follow the evolution of the style over several centuries. The 12th century Saint-Romain tower, the 14th century Librarians’ portal and Calende portal, the 15th and 16th century western facade and Butter tower, and the 19th century cast iron spire. The facade of the Cathedral is richly decorated with 70 figures, sculpted between 1362 and 1421. Also, it has the particularity, rare in France, of preserving its archiepiscopal palace and its adjacent buildings.

The highest spire in France

The lantern tower is topped by a cast iron spire that rises to 151m. It is the highest in France. Destroyed by lightning in 1822, it was imagined by the architect Jean-Antoine Alavoine who then proposed to use cast iron, a very modern material for the time, less combustible than wood and lighter than stone. At the time of its inauguration, the spire was even the highest in the world! Inside the Cathedral, in the choir, are the burial place of Rollon, founder of the Duchy of Normandy, and the heart of Richard the Lionheart who had it deposited here in “remembrance of love for Normandy.”

Guided tour

That appeals to your senses

What if we told you to take a mirror and chalk to visit the cathedral? The guided tour“Cathedral Measures and Excesses” is unprecedented and appeals to your senses. Feel the vertigo of the dimensions of the monument, soak up the resonance of its acoustics and play with the principles of its Gothic architecture. Equipped with rope, headphones and various tools, you are the actor of your visit. Nave, transept, choir have no more secrets for you. You become aware, sensorially, of the richness of this exceptional building.

An emotional beauty

Claude Monet made no mistake about it. Overwhelmed by the beauty of the Rouen Cathedral, he painted it tirelessly in series of paintings that became masterpieces that toured the world. Between 1892 and 1893, the master of Impressionism painted the monument from different vantage points and at different times of day. In particular, he depicts the cathedral as seen from the Albanian courtyard. These canvases were first done outdoors, then in a studio on the second floor of the Bureau des Finances, today’s tourist information point in Rouen. It produces twenty-eight views of the western portal at different times of the day according to the variations of light.

Thus, he writes:

As long as the sun is on it, there will be as many ways of being Rouen Cathedral as man can make divisions in time.

Claude Monet

An exceptional carillon

It is the most imposing in France and has been fully restored for the pleasure of visitors’ ears and eyes. For those who would like to get up close and personal with it, you must climb the 150 steps of the St. Roman Tower to reach the famous carillon! A visit with a guide and the carillonneur himself allows us to observe the prodigious mechanics of the instrument up close. Here we discover the keyboard made up of keys that the carillonneur presses with his fists to operate the 64 bells that we can hear from 5km away. Each of them has a name: Joan of Arc, Germaine…
For you to discover them!

Unusual visits

In the secrets of the great lady

Want to go down into the remains of the Cathedral? Some places, usually closed to the public, open up during “Unusual Cathedral” tours, revealing a little more of the prestigious building. We can thus enter the Virgin Chapel or rush into the Romanesque crypt to go back to the source of the monument’s construction on which the builders based their work, around the year 1000, to build the Gothic edifice. A candlelight tour“If Objects Could Talk” takes you, by night, to meet the Cathedral’s inhabitants.


*This tour takes place from November to March each year. Next available for booking starting in October 2023.

Cathedral of light

Every summer, as night falls, the Ccathedral metamorphoses into a sound and light show of great beauty.
Themes change regularly, taking us into the epic of Joan of Arc, the Viking adventure or the impressionist movement. Collections that are always magical at the crossroads of history and modernity. The new technologies of these monumental projections make this giant of Rouen’s heritage vibrate.

You will dream, eyes wide open!