AA_MRN_20-06-02_Rouen visit monumental cemetery_0242AA_MRN_20-06-02_Rouen visit monumental cemetery_0242
©AA_MRN_20-06-02_Rouen visit monumental cemetery_0242|Alan Aubry

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visit to the monumental cemetery

Labeled Remarkable Cemetery of Europe, Rouen’s monumental cemetery is an atypical site located on the heights of the city, to be discovered during a guided tour offered by the Tourist Office. Let yourself be surprised by the special atmosphere and the anecdotes from the lives of its occupants, such as Gustave Flaubert or Marcel Duchamp.

Rouen's monumental cemetery

what's its story?

Meet in front of the main entrance to the Monumental Cemetery of Rouen. Accessible by public transport (Line F2) or by car (free parking), the guide begins her visit with a brief history of the site.

Opened in 1824, Rouen’s monumental cemetery came into being due, on the one hand, to the abolition of mass graves and, on the other, to the advent of freedom of worship, which allowed the construction of funerary monuments.

Situated on unbuildable land and in the middle of nature at the time, the cemetery attracted the region’s notables after, in particular, the arrival of personalities in its list of occupants. In addition, there are several similarities between the organization of the cemetery’s alleys and the streets of Rouen.

Beginning with the contemporary part of the cemetery, the visit is organized as a journey back in time where the tombs and funerary monuments bear witness to the daily life of their eras.


to a return to the past

The tour continues through the alleys of the monumental cemetery. As we explore, the tour guide sheds light on the different architectural styles of the funerary monuments. These elements also allow us to wander into the society of the time and discover trades, beliefs and milestones of the history of the city of Rouen.

The guide’s reading of texts and her numerous anecdotes add another dimension to this place with such a singular atmosphere.


monument ornaments

As the tour progresses, the funerary monuments grow in size, detail and floor space.

The guide passes on some keys to understand the ornaments on the monuments: plants such as flowers, poppies, laurels, ivy leaves, but also decorative elements representing animals such as the owl or butterfly and its spiritual significance of the notion of ephemerality.

In addition to the ornaments, it is sometimes the materials used that speak volumes about the monument’s occupant, as witnessed, for example, by the sarcophagus of Ferdinand Marrou, a famous ironworker, who designed his final resting place before his death all in copper.

Flaubert, Boieldieu, Duchamp

and others

If Rouen’s monumental cemetery is renowned, it’s thanks in no small part to its occupants and their funerary monuments. Called, Rouen’s “Père Lachaise”, this place counts among its ranks, the famous author Gustave Flaubert buried not far from his friend Louis Bouilhet.

The writer from Rouen, author of Madame Bovary, has a rather unimposing stele alongside members of his family.

The man who gave this monumental cemetery another dimension is François Boieldieu. Previously buried at Père Lachaise in Paris, his heart was repatriated to Rouen and now rests in a monument adorned with musical instruments and the names of his major works.

The cemetery is also home to former mayors of the city such as Nétien, Verdrel and Fleury, as well as artists and personalities from the city.

The visit punctuates itself in the cemetery’s alleys, where visitors’ eyes become more sensitive to the details and history of each monument.

The Monumental Cemetery by candlelight

Unprecedented visit

The Metropole of Rouen Normandie is one of the few in France to offer a visit to its cemeteries by candlelight. As night falls, the darkness offers an unprecedented intimacy, and the monumental cemetery is imbued with a romantic atmosphere that would not have displeased Victor Hugo.

With respect for the site, the guide-conférencier invites you to follow the beam of his torch to discover the funerary heritage and a few personality tombs. Here and there, candles illuminate the stained glass windows from inside the chapels or accentuate the shadows of the many sculptures adorning the steles.

A surprising tour that transports visitors out of time.

Our favorite

Among the many anecdotes and little stories told by the guide, it was those around the styles of the Duchamp family that we really enjoyed. Marcel Duchamp, an artist with a caustic sense of humor, is still adored by art lovers.

As witnessed at his grave, the many objects paying tribute to the artist and his best-known works. Through these attentions, the spirit of Marcel Duchamp still hovers over this small corner of Rouen’s monumental cemetery.

The guide also tells us that Marcel Duchamp’s world-renowned work can be seen in part at Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen.