Rouen, in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie (Upper Normandy) region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once 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.
The population of the metropolitan area (in French: agglomération) at the 1999 census was 518,316, and 532,559 at the 2007 estimate. The city proper had an estimated population of 110,276 in 2007.
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 (though the names of early bishops are purely legendary) and later a capital of Merovingian Neustria.
The Middle Ages
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 1150, Rouen received its founding charter, which permitted self-government. During the 12th century, Rouen was probably the site of a yeshiva. At that time, about 6,000 Jews lived in the town, comprising about 20% of the 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.
During the Hundred Years' War, on 19 January 1419, Rouen 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; Canon and Vicar General of Rouen Robert de Livet became a hero for excommunicating the English king, resulting in de Livet's 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 logically sent to this city for Christmas 1430 and after a long trial by a church court, sentenced to be burned at the stake 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 Renaissance Period
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 facade 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 famboyant 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.
The Wars of Religion
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 thus found themselves in a minority. From 1560 onwards tensions rose between the Protestant and Catholic communities. The massacre of Wassy set off the first war of religion. On 15 April 1562 the Protestants entered the town hall and ejected the kings personal representative. In May there was an outbreak of statue smashing. On 10 May the Catholic members of the town council left Rouen. The Catholics captured the fort of Saint Catherine which overlooked the town. Both sides resorted to terror tactics. At this juncture the town authorities requested help from the Queen 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 captured Rouen and pillaged it for three days. The news of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve 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.
The Classical Age
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 created. 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.
The Modern Period
During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Rouen was occupied by the Prussians.
During the First World War the British used Rouen as a supply base and there were many military hospitals.
The city was heavily damaged (approximately 45% was destroyed) during World War II: In June 1940 first, when the area between the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Seine river burned for 48 hours, because the Germans did not allow the firemen to come and extinguish the fire. Then, other areas were destroyed between March and August 1944 just before and during the Battle of Normandy, that ended on the left Seine bank of Rouen with the destruction of several regiments, belonging to the German 7th Army. Its cathedral and several significant monuments were partly damaged by Allied bombing. During the German occupation, the German Navy had its headquarters located in a chateau on what is now the Rouen Business School (École Supérieure de Commerce de Rouen).
Parishes and churches / Paroisses et églises