Great cities of the Norman World


Transferred to Rollo through the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, the town of Rouen was until 1204 the political and religious capital of Normandy. It was in the province's mother church, Notre-Dame Cathedral, that Rollo († c. 932), his son Willliam Longsword († 942) were buried, along with several other members of the princely family. The seat of the duchy's main mint, Rouen was also a merchant town of international standing, probably the biggest one on this side of the Channel after the year 1000.

The two key stages of the rebirth of this metropolis in the wake of the invasions from Scandinavia were the repopulation of the fortified town of the Lower Empire - the so-called "cité" - in the years around 888-890, then the reconquest of the outlying faubourgs from the mid-10th century. The cité was the central seat of power. Within its precincts stood the dukes' palace, transferred from the south-west corner to the south-east corner of the enclosure in the time of Richard I († 996), and the cathedral with its dependencies and the communal or private buildings of the canons of Notre-Dame. The cité also contained a number of seigniorial mansions or "hôtels" and homes of wealthy lay and church dignitaries, often built of freestone, amid gardens and orchards. In the Rue aux Juifs quarter, the centre of the middle class business community, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of several houses of this type, referred to as a "solier" in the earliest writings in the French language. We know of only one intramural monastery, the women's abbey of St Amand near the Porte-du-Robec gate, founded in c. 1030 by a viscount of Rouen.

The faubourgs saw substantial expansion during the 11th century, although the exact stages of this extension still need to be worked out, particularly to the west of the town, where there were numerous parishes in the 13th century. In the current state of research, the overall impression is that everything in the area around Rouen was still very much spread out in a way typical of the Early Middle Ages, with river ports at Saint-Sever on the left bank and at Saint-Clément on the right bank, suburban abbeys at Saint-Gervais and la Trinité on the Mont-de-Rouen, priories outside the walls, ducal residences on the left bank, the archbishops' residence in the valley of Maromme, fair grounds in the fields just outside the town, not to mention several hospitals. In other words, "Greater Rouen" was already very much a reality back in the time of the dukes.

Jacques Le Maho
CRAHM-Université de Caen

- L. Musset, "Rouen au temps des Francs et sous les ducs (Ve siècle-1204)", in: Histoire de Rouen, ed. M. Mollet, Toulouse, Privat, 1979, p. 31-74.
- J. Le Maho, "Recherches sur les origines de quelques églises de Rouen (VIe-XIe siècles)", Bulletin de la Commission Départementale des Antiquités de la Seine-Maritime, t. XLIII, 1995 (1996), p. 143-205.
- J. Le Maho, "Coup d'œil sur la ville de Rouen autour de l'an mil", in La Normandie vers l'an mil, Société de l'Histoire de Normandie, 2000, p. 174-177.
- J. Le Maho, "Regard archéologique sur l'habitat rouennais vers l'an mil : le quartier de la cathédrale", in La Normandie vers l'an mil, Société de l'Histoire de Normandie, 2000, p. 179-183.


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