Rouen is a city on the River Seine in the north of France. It is the capital of the region of Normandy. Formerly one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, Rouen was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy during the Middle Ages. It was one of the capitals of the Anglo-Norman dynasties, which ruled both England and large parts of modern France from the 11th to the 15th centuries.
Rouen is known for its Notre Dame cathedral, with its Tour de Beurre (butter tower) financed by the sale of indulgences for the consumption of butter during Lent. The cathedral's gothic façade (completed in the 16th century) was the subject of a series of paintings by Claude Monet, some of which are exhibited in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
The Gros Horloge is an astronomical clock dating back to the 16th century. It is located in the Gros Horloge street.
Other famous structures include Rouen Castle, whose keep is known as the tour Jeanne d'Arc, where Joan of Arc was brought in 1431 to be threatened with torture (contrary to popular belief, she was not imprisoned there but in the since destroyed tour de lady Pucelle); the Church of Saint Ouen (12th–15th century); the Palais de Justice, which was once the seat of the Parlement (French court of law) of Normandy; the Gothic Church of St Maclou (15th century); and the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics which contains a splendid collection of faïence and porcelain for which Rouen was renowned during the 16th to 18th centuries. Rouen is also noted for its surviving half-timbered buildings.
There are many museums in Rouen: the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, an art museum with pictures of well-known painters such as Claude Monet and Géricault; the Musée maritime fluvial et portuaire, a museum on the history of the port of Rouen and navigation; Musée des antiquités, an art and history museum with local works from the Bronze Age through the Renaissance, the Musée de la céramique and the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles.
The Jardin des Plantes de Rouen is a notable botanical garden once owned by Scottish banker John Law dated from 1840 in its present form. It was the site of Élisa Garnerin's parachute jump from a balloon in 1817.
In the centre of the Place du Vieux Marché (the site of Joan of Arc's pyre) is the modern church of Saint Joan of Arc. This is a large, modern structure which dominates the square. The form of the building represents an upturned viking boat and a fish shape.
Rouen was also home to the French Grand Prix, hosting the race at the nearby Rouen-Les-Essarts track sporadically between 1952 and 1968. In 1999 Rouen authorities demolished the grandstands and other remnants of Rouen's racing past. Today, little remains beyond the public roads that formed the circuit.