1902 Encyclopedia > Rouen


ROUEN, a city of France, the ancient capital of Normandy, and now the administrative centre of the department of Seine Inférieure, the seat of an arch-bishopric and a court of appeal, and the headquarters of the third corps d'armée, stands on a level site on the right bank of the Seine in 49° 26' N. lat. and 1° 6' E. long, at the point where it is joined by the Aubette and the small Rivière de Robec ; it has also crept some dis-tance up the hills which enclose the valley on the right, and has an extension on the plain on the left bank. The faubourgs by which it is surrounded are, reckoning from the east, Martainville (on the left bank of the Robec), St Hilaire, Beauvoisine, Bouvreuil, and Cauchoise ; and the portion which lies on the left bank of the Seine is known as the Faubourg St Sever. Between the old town and the faubourgs runs a line of boulevards. Communication between the two banks of the river is maintained by ferry-boats and by two bridges ; the upper bridge, a stone struc-ture, is divided into two parts by the Lacroix island and decorated by a statue of Corneille ; the lower is an iron suspension bridge which opens in the middle to let masted vessels pass. The railway from Havre to Paris crosses the Seine a little above Rouen, and having passed by a tunnel under the higher quarters of the city reaches a station on the north at a distance of 87 miles from Paris and 55 from Havre. Another station at Martainville is the terminus of the line from Bouen to Amiens ; and at St Sever are those of the lines to Paris and to Orleans by Elbeuf. Since about 1860 wide streets have been driven through the old town, and tramway lines now traverse the whole city and its environs. Rouen, which is 78 miles from the sea, stands fourth in the list of French ports, coming next to Marseilles, Havre, and Bordeaux. Em-bankments constructed along the lower Seine have forced the river to deepen its own channel, and the land thus reclaimed has more than repaid the expenses incurred. The port is now accessible to vessels drawing 21 feet of water, and by means of easy dredgings this will be increased to from 25 feet to 28 according to the tide. The expansion of the traffic as the improvements have advanced is shown by the following returns : whereas in 1856 the number of vessels entered and cleared was 6220, with an aggregate burden of 570,314 tons, the corresponding figures were 4511 and 748,076 in 1876, and 5189 and 1,438,055 in 1880. What is now wanted is an increased amount of quay accom-modation, the old line of quays scarcely exceeding 1 mile in length. The building of new quays and repairing-docks for large vessels is in active progress ; the port is being dredged and deepened; and schemes are under considera-tion for a slip, a petroleum dock, and corn elevators. Rouen has regular steamboat communication with Bor-deaux, Spain, Algeria, London, Hull, Goole, Plymouth, Bristol, and Canada. A sunken chain allows boats to be towed up to Paris and beyond.

The population of the six cantons of Rouen in 1881 was 105,906, but if the suburbs are included the figure may be stated at about 150,000.

The imports landed at Rouen include cottons, wheat, maize, and petroleum from America ; coal and iron from England ; marble, oils, wines, and dried fruits from Italy ; wines, wools, ores, and metals from Spain ; grain and wool from the Black Sea ; grapes from the Levant ; rice from India ; coffee from the French colonies ; oil seeds, timber, dyewoods, foreign textile fabrics, Dutch cheese, &c. The articles of export comprise grain, table fruits, oil-seeds and oilcake, sugar, olive oil, palm oil, timber, hemp, linen, and wool, marble, granite, hewn stone, plaster and building materials, sulphur, coal, pig-iron, steel, copper, lead, zinc, salt, dyestuffs and other chemical products, wines, brandy, ciders, earthenware and glass-ware, machinery, packing-paper, &c.

Cotton spinning and weaving are carried on in the town, and especially the manufacture of rouenneries (cotton fabrics woven with dyed yarn). In this connexion the department of Seine Inférieure gives employment to 200,000 workmen, most of them in Rouen and its neighbourhood, and makes use of 30,000 tons of cotton annually. In 1876 there were in the Rouen district 1,099,261 spindles engaged in cotton-spinning, and 9251 power-looms. Hand-loom weaving is prosecuted (mainly in the country districts) by 13,000 workmen. In the rouennerie department 190 manufacturers were engaged, producing annually to the value of £2,400,000. In the manufacture of printed cotton and woollen goods 22 establishments and 5000 workmen are employed. The annual production of printed calico amounts to 1,000,000 pieces, each 105 metres (about 115 yards) long ; 22 establishments with 700 workmen are devoted to the dyeing of cotton cloth, and 32 establishments with 1200 workmen to the dyeing of cotton thread, the industry being specially favoured by the quality of the water of Rouen. There are also 3 soap works, 7 chemical works, manufacturing soda, vitriol, and dyestuffs, and 10 iron foundries. Engineering works manufacture steam-engines, spinning-machines, and weaving-looms, agricultural machines, sewing-machines, &c., which are sold throughout France and exported to other countries to a total value of £360,000. There is an establishment at Déville for relining copper and manu-facturing copper pipes. Other works at Rouen are distilleries, oil mills, bleacheries and cloth-dressing establishments, tanneries, and ship-building yards. The town is also famous for its confectionery, especially sucres de pomme. Among the public institutions are extensive poorhouses (1800 beds in the hospice general), several theatres, a public library (118,000 volumes and 2500 MSS.), a theo-logical faculty, a preparatory school of medicine and phar-macy, a preparatory school for higher instruction in science and literature, and schools of agriculture, botany, and forestry, painting and drawing schools, &c. Besides the Grand Cours, which runs along the bank of the Seine above the town and is lined with magnificent elms, the public promenades comprise the Cours Boieldieu, with the composer's statue, the Solfer-ino garden in the heart of the town, and the botanical gar-dens at St Sever. (G. ME.)

History.—Ratuma or Ratu-macos, the original name of Rouen, was modified by the Romans into Rotomagus, and by the writers of mediaeval Latin intoRodomum, of which the present name is a corrup-tion. Under Caesar and the early emperors the town was the capital of the Veliocas-sians, a people of secondary rank, and it did not attain to any eminence till it was made the centre of Lugdunensis Secunda at the close of the 3d century, and a little later the see of an arch-bishop. Rouen was largely indebted to its first bishops— from St Mello, the apostle of the region, who flourished about 260, to St Remigius, who died in 772. Ten or twelve of those prelates have the title of saints ; they built in their city many churches, and their tombs became in turn the origin of new sanctuaries, so that Rouen was already, at that early period, what it has remained to the present time, and in spite of its political character—a religious city full of ecclesiastical monuments. From this period there has been preserved the precious crypt of St Gervais, which contains the tomb of the second bishop of Rouen, St Avitian. Under Louis " le Débonnaire " and his successors Normans several times sacked the city, but the conversion of Rollo in 912 made Rouen the capital of Normandy, and raised it to a greater degree of prosperity than ever. The first Norman kings of England rather neglected Rouen in favour first of Caen and afterwards of Poitiers, Le Mans, or Angers ; but the monasteries, the local trade and manufactures, and the communal organization, which the people of Rouen had exacted from their sovereigns in 1145, maintained a most flourishing state of affairs, indicated by the rebuilding of several sumptuous churches, and notably of the great abbey which had been erected in the 5th century by St Victrix, and afterwards took the name of St Ouen from the bishop whose tomb it contained. Of this restora-tion there remains in the present building a small apse of two stories, the only Norman fragment of any importance preserved by the ancient capital of Normandy. The union of this province to France by Philip Augustus in 1204 did no damage to the prosperity of Rouen, although its inhabitants submitted to their new master only after a siege of nearly three months. To this period belong, if not the commencement, at least the rapid erection of the most important building in the town, the cathedral of Notre Dame, whose vast pile, erected between 1200 and 1220 by an architect called Ingelram or Enguerrand, underwent so many alterations, restorations, and extensions that it took its final form only in the 16th century. It is in plan a Latin cross 427 feet in length, with aisles completely surrounding it an A giving access to the three great chapels of the choir. The west facade and those of the transept are of extreme richness. Each was surmounted by two towers, of which only one—the Butter Tower (Tour de Beurre)— was completed. The western fagade, frequently enlarged, embel-lished, or restored from its first construction to the present time, has two charming side doorways of the close of the 12th century, a great central doorway, a rose window, and countless arcades and Gothic pinnacles and turrets of the close of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. The width of the front is increased by the pro-jection of the two towers : that on the left hand, the Tour Saint -Romain, was commenced about 1200, and raised to a greater height in 1465-1477 ; that on the right hand, the finer, has a height of 260 feet, and takes its name of Butter Tower from the fact that it was erected between 1485 and 1507 by means of the moneys paid by the faithful for permission to eat butter in Lent. On the north side of the cathedral are various accessory buildings dating from the Middle Ages, and the Booksellers' Portal, corresponding to the Portail do la Calende in the south transept. Both portals are adorned with statues, and both, as well as the towers which flank them, date from the reigns of St Louis and Philip the Fair. Above the transept rises the central tower, which was rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries, and had before its destruction by fire in 1822 a height of 430 feet. The iron spire added in 1876, though unfortunately much too slender, has raised it to a height of 485 feet, and thus made it the highest erection in Europe after the spires of Cologne cathedral. While more harmonious in its style than the exterior, the interior of Notre Dame de Rouen presents nothing peculiar in its architecture, with the exception of the false gallery along the nave with passages running round the pillars ; but the artistic curiosities are numerous and varied. In the choir may be noted a fine series of 13th-century stained-glass windows, carved stalls of the 15th century, the tombs of the English kings Henry II. and Richard I., that of Bishop Maurille, who built the larger part of the present structure, an elegant Gothic staircase, and various tombs of archbishops and nobles.

Philip Augustus built a castle at Rouen, but it was rather a fortress than a palace, and the kings of France never treated it as a residence; a round keep called Joan of Arc's Tower still stands. On the other hand, nothing remains of the castle erected by Henry V. of England when he took possession of Rouen in 1418 after a sanguinary siege ; lie proposed making it one of his Continental resi-dences, but it was never completed. It was in Philip Augustus's castle that Joan of Arc was imprisoned and tried, and one of the public squares was the place where she was burned alive in 1431. From that year began a series of attempts on the part of the French to recapture the town. Rieardville in 1432 and Xaintrailles in 1436 failed in spite of the secret connivance of the inhabitants. In 1449 a stronger and better-planned expedition was successful, and Somer-set, the English commander, was obliged, in order to secure an honourable capitulation, to surrender the principal fortified places in Normandy. The English rule, though badly supported by the citizens, had not been without its influence on the prosperity of Rouen. It was then that the present church of St Ouen was con-tinued and almost completed ; the foundation was laid in 1311, but the choir alone had been constructed in the 14th century. In spite of the juxtaposition of the second and third or "radiant" and " flamboyant" styles of Gothic, the building taken altogether pre-sents in its general lines the most perfect unity—a unity which even the modern addition of a fajade with two bell towers has failed to mar, though no regard was had to the original plans. St Ouen is the largest church erected in France during the War of the Hundred Years ; in length (450 feet) it exceeds the cathedral. The central tower, not unlike the Butter Tower, with which it is contemporary, is 265 feet high ; the two new towers with their spires are some-what lower. Apart from its enormous dimensions and the richness of its southern portal, St Ouen has nothing that need long de-tain the visitor ; its style is cold and formal; the interior, bare and stripped of its ancient stained glass, was further despoiled in 1562 and in 1791 of its artistic treasures and of almost all its old church-furniture. The organ dates from 1630, and the rather handsome roodscreen from the 18th century. The close of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th—the reigns of Charles VIII., Louis XII., Francis I., and Henry II., and the episcopates of Cardinal Estoutteville (1453-1483), Cardinal Georges d'Amboise (1494-1510), and his nephew of the same name (1511-50)—rendered Rouen for nearly a hundred years the metropolis of art and taste in France ; and it was one of the first towns where the splendours of the Renaissance burst forth. At this time the church of St Maclou was erected, a building that can hardly be brought into comparison with the cathedral and St Ouen, but is justly cele-brated for the value and variety of its artistic treasures, such as the carved work of the principal doors, partly executed by Jean Goujon, the beautiful stained glass, and an organ-loft reached by an open-work staircase. The spire, 285 feet nigh, is a structure of the present century. Beside the church is the old parish cemetery, called the Aitre of Saint Maclou, surrounded by charming Renaissance galleries and famous for its danse macabre formed by a series of sculptured groups. Other churches of the same period—St Godard, St Patrice, St Vincent—are no less interesting from the pro-fusion of their architectural details than from their magnificent 16th-century stained-glass windows. There are two glass windows in St Godard, and a regular collection in St Patrice; but the latter, though the most famous, are in the eyes of connoisseurs of less worth than the stained glass in St Vincent, due to two incomparable artists of Beauvais, Engrand and Jean Le Prince,—the two principal subjects treated by them being the Gifts of Mercy and the Glorification of the Virgin. St Godard contains, besides, old frescos worthy of note. The church of St Laurent, no longer used for worship, and the tower of St Andre are both of 16th-century origin. At the same period the cathedral received great embellishments, the central fleche was erected, and the portals were decorated with new sculptures. Georges dAmboise, the virtuous minister of Louis XII., chose the chapel of the Virgin for his place of burial; he caused his mausoleum, constructed after the plans of the architect Roland le Roux, to be composed entirely of marble, as well as his statue, which he ordered from Jean Goujon. Georges d'Amboise the second was, according to his desire, interred in his uncle's tomb, but his statue is of much less value. Near this tomb are two others erected for the lords of Brézé ; both are very remarkable ; the oldest belongs to the Gothic style ; the other, the tomb of Diana of Poitiers's husband, is a Renaissance structure of the time of Henry II., but, contrary to what was long believed, contains nothing from the hand of Jean Goujon. Under Louis XII. the archbishops of Rouen also rebuilt their palace at the side of the cathedral; but in spite of the richness of its architecture this lordly mansion cannot compete with the "palace of justice" begun in the same year, 1499, when the exchequer of Normandy, which had been established at Rouen in 1302, was erected into a parlcmcnt, though the title was not adopted till 1515. This sumptuous building is in the Gothic style; but the Hotel de Bourgtheroulde, which dates from the time of Francis I., is undisguisedly of the Renaissance, and is justly celebrated for its bas-reliefs, the subjects of which are borrowed from two quite different orders of things—the allegories from Petrarch's Triumphs, and the interview of the Field of the Cloth of Gold between Henry VIII. and Francis I. Many other secular Renais-sance buildings in Rouen bear witness to the great commercial prosperity of its citizens and to their keen appreciation of the arts :—numerous private houses in stone and especially in wood ; the gate of the great clock ; and a unique structure, the " fierté of St Romain, a sort of pulpit from which every year a person condemned to death raised before the people the shrine or fierté (fcretrum) of St Romain, and then received pardon and liberty. This splendour of the arts began to decline during the wars of religion ; in 1562 the town was sacked by the Protestants, which did not prevent the League from obtaining so firm a footing there that Henry IV., after having vainly besieged it, did not obtain entrance till long after his abjuration. To the 18th century belong the exchange and the claustral buildings of the abbey of St Ouen, transformed into an hôtel de ville. Much more important works have been executed in recent times, but in great part at the expense of the historic and picturesque features of the town. On the other hand, handsome structures of various kinds have been erected in the interests of public utility or embellishment—churches, civil and military establishments, fountains, statues, &c. ; and many old buildings have been carefully restored or completed. Rouen, more- over, has recently been provided with museums of antiquities, of fine arts, of ceramic art, of natural history, and of industry,—the first two being very important. During the Franco-German War the city was occupied by the invaders from 5th December 1870 to 22d July 1871, and had to submit to heavy requisitions. Among the famous men born at Rouen are the brothers Corneille, Fontenelle, the journalists Armand Carrel and De Villemessant, the composer Boieldieu, the painters Jouvenet, Restout, and Géricault, the architect Blondel, Dulong the physicist, and La Salle the American explorer.

The above article was written by: Gaston Meissas and Anthyme Saint-Paul.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries