Resplendent, majestic… There is no shortage of adjectives to describe the abbey church of Saint-Ouen, a Gothic jewel of the city of Rouen, “the city of a hundred steeples”. With its 137 meters in length, 33 meters in height under the vault, and a culminating tower at 80 meters, it is often compared to its neighbour, Notre-Dame Cathedral, one of the largest religious buildings in France.
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But there you have it, the jewel, integrated between the 14th and 19thand classified as a historic monument since 1840, is covered, hidden behind scaffolding. And for good reason: the time has come for an unprecedented, very large-scale restoration. Started in April 2021, it is a “renovation in its entirety, a construction site manifests itself at 20 million euros”, says Christine de Cintré, president of the Rouen tourist office. Its exceptional framework is considered the “last forest of France” since the fire of Notre-Dame de Paris. Its collection of stained glass windows from the 14th to the 20th century is just as masterful.
Call for donations for the large south transept rose
The city of Rouen has launched a crowdfunding campaign (individuals and local businesses can participate), with an objective of €500,000 to restore a specific part of the building: the 700 stained glass windows of the rose window of the south transept. Donors have until June to make their contribution on the Heritage Foundation website.
It is this rose that “was chosen because its design is exceptional. It is the only Tree of Jesse depicted in a circular manner,” Christine de Cintré report. Designed by the architect Alexandre de Berneval, 8.50 meters wide and built between 1467 and 1483, it must be cleaned on both sides to remove rust. Its removal began on January 31, 2022. Stonemasons, carpenters and master glassmakers are hard at work.
“We are surprised by the motivation of the inhabitants. Thanks to this call for donations, we have indeed discovered that the population of Rouen, often discreet and modest, wanted to value, to consider its rich heritage”, rejoices Christine de Cintré. Because there are nearly “200 listed monuments in Rouen”, she recalls.
The Norman city is used: “Many entrepreneurs have offered to make objects (jewellery, card holders, tote bags, linen pouches, etc.) to sell them for the benefit of our crowdfunding. Everyone can contribute as much as they can. A pastry chef even created a cake called “La Rose”! Nearly €100,000 have already been collected, all actions combined! »
This project is part of the campaign that Flaubert’s birthplace will soon lead to obtain the label of European Capital of Culture by 2028. Rouen’s location on the Seine, a major axis between Paris and the sea, and the richness of its artistic heritage are the main assets of the Norman city. “Maintaining the old is fundamental. Involving the inhabitants in these renovations is just as important. It’s nice to work together.” Throw Christine de Cintré.