Roof of Saint Romain Tower in Rouen Cathedral copyright French Moments
  • Home
  • Blog
  • Tour Saint-Romain, Rouen Cathedral

Last Updated: 15 April 2020


Rouen’s most prestigious monument, the lofty and imposing cathedral, is one of the most exquisite pieces of pure Flamboyant work existing. Tour Saint-Romain is dedicated to St. Romain. It is one of the three mighty towers that make the cathedral of Rouen one of the country’s most stunning sanctuaries.

Tour Saint-Romain: a stunning Gothic tower

Tour Saint-Romain © French Moments
Tour Saint-Romain © French Moments

On the northern side of the West front of the cathedral of Rouen lies the mighty Tour Saint Romain, four centuries older than its counterpart, the Tour de Beurre.

Work on the tower started in 1145, so it is the oldest part of the Gothic construction. Its last storey, in Flamboyant style, clashes with the rest of the more sober building. The Saint Romain tower burnt down on the 1st June 1944, after Allied bombing the day before. The bells melted inside and only the walls were left standing.

Tour St Romain after the 1944 Allied bombs © crédit photo Deutsches Bundesarchiv 1944
Tour St Romain after the 1944 Allied bombs © crédit photo Deutsches Bundesarchiv 1944

Its unusual axe-like roof, covered with slates and decorated with gilded images of a sun, has been reconstructed only recently and inaugurated at Easter 1987.

Roof of Tour Saint-Romain in Rouen Cathedral copyright French Moments
Tour Saint-Romain, Rouen Cathedral © French Moments
Windows of Tour Saint-Romain copyright French Moments
Windows of Tour Saint Romain copyright French Moments

The tower is best seen from the Place de la Cathedral and the streets of rue Saint-Romain and rue du Gros-Horloge. It is 82 metre tall.

Tour Saint-Romain seen from Rue du Gros Horloge copyright French Moments
The tower seen from Rue du Gros Horloge copyright French Moments

My book recommendation!

Its name? Simply:

Gothic: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting by Rolf Toman, Publisher: Ullmann

My copy of the book "Gothic: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting"
My copy of the book “Gothic: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting”

This book has been for me a great resource that helped me better understand the Gothic movement in art from the 12th century to the Renaissance. An architectural style that first originated from France and spread all over Europe.

Over 500 pages it focuses on the development of Gothic architecture with many illustrations and photographs, but not only. I’ve also found interesting the in-depth discussion of the most diverse art forms, including painting, sculpture, metalwork and even book illumination! It also includes specific coverage of the Cathars’ Heresy and the Papal Palace in Avignon. And, of course, it mentions the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Rouen!

This is definitely the book I recommend if – like me – you love everything about Gothic such as churches, gargoyles, stained glass, flying buttresses and so much more.

Order it online!

Interior of Tour Saint-Romain

Interior of Tour Saint Romain in Rouen Cathedral © French Moments
Lower room © French Moments

The ground floor of the Tour Saint-Romain is occupied by a lower room which houses the baptistery.

The second floor is a large room with a double level of windows. Above it is the belfry floor which houses the largest bell of the cathedral, the Jeanne d’Arc.

The Legend of St. Romain and the Gargouille

Saint-Romain and the Gargouille copyright French Moments
Saint-Romain and the Gargouille copyright French Moments

The tower takes its name from Rouen’s most venerated bishop: St. Romain (or Romanus). According to tradition, the patron saint lived under King Dagobert I and is remembered as a protector of the city. There were wild swamps on the left bank of the Seine, opposite the old town, where a terrifying dragon lived who “devoured and destroyed people and beasts of the field”. The people of Rouen named it “Gargouille”.

Joined by a man condemned to death, having nothing to lose, they crossed the Seine and chased the dragon. When the Patron Saint caught it, Saint Romain drew the sign of the cross on the monster. Then he put his cape around it and dragged the beast to the parvis of the cathedral where the Gargouille was burnt to death. After that, it was a local custom for the bishop of Rouen, once a year, to grant one prisoner who had been condemned to death, his freedom (a custom which lasted until 1790). Needless to say, this legend draws similarities with the Graouilly of Metz.

For more information, visit the Rouen Tourist Board website.


Check out our curated magazine on Flipboard for exclusive stories & insights on France!

Gems of Paris by French Moments
About the 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. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, 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. Pierre is the author of Discovery Courses and books about France.

Like it? Leave a comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Transparency: Some blog posts and pages may contain affiliate or sponsored links. If you are planning a trip, the use of these links helps us to run the site. There is no additional cost to you. All you have to do is click on the link and any booking you make is automatically tracked. Thank you for your support!

Escape to France with every email! Get insider insights, travel guides, cultural gems delivered and exclusive offers to your inbox twice a week. Your journey to Paris and France begins when you sign up!



24 Places to See in France in 2024