Rouen (pronounced in French, sometimes also /ʀwɑ̃/) is the historical capital city of Normandy, in northern France, and presently the capital of the Upper Normandy région. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, Rouen was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy and played a major role in English history, serving as the de facto capital of England alongside London during the Anglo-Norman dynasties. As a matter of fact, it is in Rouen that the English burnt Joan of Arc in 1431.
Population of the metropolitan area (in French: aire urbaine) at the 1999 census was 518,316 inhabitants.
Rouen is the capital of the Upper Normandy région, as well as the préfecture (capital) of the Seine-Maritime département.
Rouen and 36 suburban communes of the metropolitan area form the Community of Agglomeration of Rouen Haute-Normandie, with 393,621 inhabitants in it at the 1999 census.
Rouen was probably founded by the Romans who called it Rotomagus. Rouen was the chief city of the Secunda Provincia Lugdunensis under Constantine.In the 5th century it became the seat of the bishopric and later a capital of Neustria. In the 9th century, it was overrun by Normans and has been since 912 the capital of Normandy and residence of the dukes.
On April 16, 1203 Philippe Auguste entered Rouen and definitively annexed Normandy to the French Kingdom in 1204.
During the Hundred Years' War, on January 19, 1419, Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England who made Normandy a part of England. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen on May 30, 1431.
Rouen is known for its Notre Dame cathedral, with its Tour de Beurre (butter tower). The cathedral was the subject of a series of paintings by Claude Monet, some of which are exhibited in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
The Gros Horloge is an astronomical clock (16th century), located in the Gros Horloge street.
Other famous structures include the Gothic Church of Saint Maclou (fifteenth-century); the Tour Jeanne d'Arc, where Joan of Arc was brought in 1431 to be threatened with torture (contrary to popular belief, she was not imprisoned there); the Church of Saint Ouen (12th–15th century); the Palais de Justice, which was once the seat of the Parlement (French court of law) of Normandy and the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics which contains a splendid collection of faïence and porcelain for which Rouen was renowned during the 16th to 18th centuries.
Rouen is noted for its surviving half-timbered buildings.
Rouen is served by a light metro system opened in 1994.
It is the seat of the École Supérieure de Commerce de Rouen.
The chapter of Rouen, (which consists of the archbishop, a dean, fifty canons, and ten prebendaries,) have, ever since the year 1156, enjoyed the annual privilege of pardoning, on Ascension-day, some individual confined within the jurisdiction of the city for murder.
On the morning of Ascension-day, the chapter, having heard many examinations and confessions read, proceed to the election of the criminal who is to be pardoned; and, the choice being made, his name is transmitted in writing to the parliament, which assemble on that day at the palace. The parliament then walk in procession to the great chamber, where the prisoner is brought before them in irons, and placed on a stool; he is informed that the choice has fallen upon him, and that he is entitled to the privilege of St. Romain.
After this form, he is delivered into the hands of the chaplain, who, accompanied by fifty armed men, conveys him to a chamber, where the chains are taken from his legs and bound about his arms; and in this condition he is conducted to a place named the Old Tower, where he awaits the coming of the procession. After some little time has elapsed, the procession sets out from the cathedral; two of the canons bear the shrine in which the relics of St. Romain are presumed to be preserved. When they have arrived at the Old Tower, the shrine is placed in the chapel, opposite to the criminal, who appears kneeling, with the chains on his arms. Then one of the canons, having made him repeat the confession, says the prayers usual at the time of giving absolution; after which service, the prisoner kneeling still, lifts up the shrine three times, amid the acclamations of the people assembled to behold the ceremony. The procession then returns to the cathedral, followed by the criminal, wearing a chaplet of flowers on his head, and carrying the shrine of the saint. After mass has been performed, he has a very serious exhortation addressed to him by a monk; and, lastly, he is conducted to an apartment near the cathedral, and is supplied with refreshments and a bed for that night. In the morning he is dismissed.
This privilege was justified by the legend of the Gargouille, a fearsome dragon, and how St. Romain defeated him with the help of a prisoner.