Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

Author: fraise

Tuesday 22 July 2014, in La France, Photography, Travel

Church of Saint Ouen

Of the multitude of Gothic churches I’ve visited in France, none has impressed me as profoundly as l’Abbatiale Saint-Ouen, known as the Church of Saint Ouen in English. If you’re wondering how to pronounce it, it’s roughly like our Owen and Ewen, which is for good reason, as they’re from the same root. Saint Audoin (Ouen) lived in the seventh century, and eventually became bishop in Rouen. After his death and burial at the original church, built in 553, the building took on his name. Three centuries later, this abbey was sacked by Vikings, which happened relatively often in Normandy. Indeed, in 911, one invader traded peace for a guarantee of his protection of Normandy… against other Viking warriors. He was named King Rollo. One thousand years after Rollo’s victory, Denmark gifted a replica of Harald Bluetooth’s runestone to the city of Rouen, where it still stands in front of the modern abbey.

Church of Saint Ouen, west rose window

Another church began construction in 1062, and was consecrated in 1126. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1248. Today’s abbatiale construction began in 1318, and the last side, the west, was finished in the 19th century. The photo above is of a smaller rose window on this western side – you can see definite Celtic influence.

In addition to the flamboyant exterior – which is indeed mainly Gothic Flamboyant – the church’s stained glass windows are among its most unique sights.

Church of Saint Ouen, stained glass
Church of Saint Ouen, stained glass

If you’d like to see more pictures of the church, there are over a dozen in my photoset of Rouen. Our next entry on the Norman city will be about more down-to-earth buildings, namely the wonderful maisons à colombages, or woodframe homes.

2 responses to “Abbatiale Saint-Ouen”

  1. Bruce B. Says:

    Hi Anna,

    Glad you’re making good use of your time exploring the more northern reaches of la douce France. Haven’t yet seen this church, so thanks for the photos, it’s truly a magnificent (mostly) gothic structure. However, I noticed something in the first photo that’s a little… well, strange in the gothic arch on the right (but not the doorway arch farther back on the left). All the stone work everywhere, including above the doorway on the left, is mostly smooth with finished surfaces, except for the stone work just above the arch on the right. It’s almost looks like it was filled with various stones (originally meant to be covered?), almost sort of like brick work. I find it odd, and it just looks out of place. It just doesn’t make sense given the rest.

    Any ideas?

  2. fraise Says:

    You’re right, the brick looks much newer! Maybe that area had been damaged and was replaced – there are quite a few spots of the church/abbey that are damaged or odd-looking. This church was luckier than others closer to the center in that it wasn’t damaged by WWII bombings, but if you look at other photos I took of it, you can see it hasn’t been cared for as well. There are plants growing everywhere on it! It could use some thoughtful restoration.

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