Saint Joan of Arc Church, Rouen

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Situated on the historic Place du Vieux-Marché, Saint Joan of Arc church is Rouen‘s 20th century response to the medieval Gothic churches that made the reputation of the city. Its sweeping curves refers to the flame that consumed Joan of Arc on the same square in 1431.


Saint Joan of Arc church: a bit of history

Saint Joan of Arc Church, Rouen © French Moments

St Joan of Arc Church, Rouen © French Moments

Saint Joan of Arc church was built by architect Louis Arretche and although audacious, the project was also controversial in a city that houses many beautiful medieval Gothic churches.

The church was inaugurated on the 27th May 1979 by French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. It was listed as an historic monument in 2002.


Exterior of St. Joan of Arc church

St Joan of Arc Church, Rouen © French Moments

St Joan of Arc Church, Rouen © French Moments

Built in 1979, the wacky and spiky-looking memorial church is at odds with the surrounding picturesque Norman half-timbered houses. Some people see in the shape of the church an overturned long ship or the pyre on which the Saint was burnt. The church is surmounted by a trapezoidal slate roof which is elongated to form a walkway across the square. The scaly tiling of the roof matches the fish-shaped windows.

Roof of Saint Joan of Arc Church copyright French Moments

Detail of the roof © French Moments


Interior of Saint Joan of Arc church

St Joan of Arc Church 2 copyright French Moments

Inside the church © French Moments

Inside, 13 stained-glass windows from the 1520-1530 form a glass wall of 500 square metres, bathing the interior in exceptional light. These fine windows were originally set in the choir of the Saint-Vincent church which was destroyed during the Second World War (its ruins are still visible today on the rue Jeanne d’Arc). However, precautions had been taken and the windows were put in safe keeping until they were incorporated into their new home some 40 years later.

The 13 panels illustrate Christ’s childhood, Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection, and life events of Saint Peter, Saint Anne and Saint Anthony of Padua.

St Joan of Arc Church 4 copyright French Moments

Stained-glass windows © French Moments

St Joan of Arc Church 5 copyright French Moments

Saint Joan of Arc Church – the Stained-glass windows © French Moments

The stained-glass windows inside St Joan of Arc Church, Rouen © French Moments

The stained-glass windows inside St Joan of Arc Church, Rouen © French Moments

List of the 13 window panels:

  1. Window of St. Peter’s life, 1520-1530, gift of the Boyvins, lords of Bonnetot;
  2. Window of St. Anne, 1520-1530, by Jean Le Vieil and offered by the Compostela brotherhood;
  3. Window of the Virgin’s Triumph, ordered in 1515 and completed circa 1522, work of Jean and Engrand Le Prince;
  4. Window of St. Anne’s Tree, 1520-1530;
  5. Window of the life of St. John the Baptist, completed in 1526, work of Engrand Le Prince;
  6. Window of the Œuvres de Miséricorde, completed in 1520-1530, work of Engrand and maybe of Jean Le Prince;
  7. Window of St. Anthony of Padoua, 1520-1530;
  8. Window of the Saints, 1520-1530;
  9. Window of the childhood and public life of Christ, 1520-1530, gift of the Le Roux de Bourgtheroulde;
  10. Window of the Passion, 1520-1530;
  11. Window of the Crucifixion, 1520-1530;
  12. Window of the glorious life of Christ, 1520-1530;
  13. Window of the martyrdom of St. Vincent, 1520-1530, gift of the Le Roux, lords of Esprevier.
St Joan of Arc Church 3 copyright French Moments

Stained-glass windows, St Joan of Arc Church © French Moments

St Joan of Arc Church 6 copyright French Moments

Stained-glass windows, St Joan of Arc Church © French Moments


Place du Vieux-Marché

Place du Vieux Marché is arguably the main square of Rouen with its half-timbered houses and restaurant and dominated by the modern church of Saint Joan of Arc.

Place du Vieux-Marché, Rouen © French Moments

Place du Vieux-Marché, Rouen © French Moments

The square was the site of a church (église Saint-Sauveur) which was dismantled in 1793 during the French Revolution. Its foundations were cleared during the recent renovation of the square.

A small commemorative plaque and a 20 metre high cross mark the spot on which Joan of Arc was burnt alive for heresy on the 30th May 1431.

Joan of Arc's Death at the Stake, painting by Hermann Anton Stilke (1843)

Joan of Arc’s Death at the Stake, painting by Hermann Anton Stilke (1843)

The site of the stake of Joan of Arc, Rouen © French Moments

The site of the stake of Joan of Arc, Rouen © French Moments

Next to the church stands a small market hall, evoking the ancient tradition of trade occurring in the square as long ago as Joan of Arc’s time.


 

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

8 Comments

  1. William Burke, Jr. on

    That’s the most ridiculously ugly church (?) I’ve ever laid eyes on!

    It’s dishonors Joan of Arc’s memory!

    • It’s true the modern architecture is striking, especially when surrounded by medieval-looking houses. But the real beauty of the church are the stained-glass windows!

      • William Burke, Jr. on

        The stained glass windows inside are beautiful, but the first thing you see when you look at any church is the outside! Just think of Notre Dame in Paris, St. Patrick’s in New York, and numerous others. They are all in the shape of a cross looking from above and they all have beautiful spires, towers, a dome or maybe flying buttresses.. This church looks like it was done by an alien from outer space or maybe he was on drugs at the time. I don’t like modern architecture anyway, but this rendition of a church is downright hideous.

  2. William Burke, Jr. on

    Stained glasses windows are always nice and appropriate in any church, but the outside of the church is equally important, and the Joan of Arc So-called “church” in Rouen looks like a ship that’s been turned upside down. I hate modern architecture.

  3. I found the Church to be beautiful both inside and outside. The Sculpture of her inside the church is so beautifully placed with the golden light shining down upon the modern bronze of her. It brought tears to my eyes. I like to think of the inside of the church is like a Viking boat with all the ribs of such a boat. The stained glass stands out so well because the building is limited to the amount of glass, thus making each panel more important.
    I love the uplifting elements in the outside of the church! An old square with a detached modern church so beautifully combines the two elements. It enriches the whole area.

    • Thank you Ann… in fact at first the exterior of the church made a weird impression on me. But once inside I was blown away by the stained-glass windows!

  4. William Burke, Jr. on

    I totally disagree. I hate modern architecture and this is a typical example. Any church should look like a church. This thing looks like it was designed by an alien from outer space or the Architect was on something when he did it. Church’s are supposed to have a steeple or a dome or maybe a rectangular tower or two. This building looks like it’s right out of someone’s nightmare! I don’t think Joan of Arc would have liked it at all.

  5. William Burke, Jr. on

    A Christian church should look like a church. It should have a spire or a dome or maybe a rectangular tower or two in the front. This church looks like it was designed by an alien from outer space or maybe by an architect who was on something illegal. I don’t deny I’m not a fan of modern architecture, I much prefer classical, gothic or even romanesque architecture, but this building is really over the top! I don’t think Joan of Arc would have liked it. The stained glass windows are beautiful, they always are, and appropriate for the interior of this church, but the outside to me makes no sense at all.

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