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Église Saint Maclou

Église Saint Maclou: A Gothic Masterpiece in Rouen

In the heart of the historic city of Rouen, France, stands the magnificent Église Saint Maclou, a testament to the grandeur of Gothic architecture. Erected between the 15th and 16th centuries, this architectural gem is renowned for its intricate facade, exceptional stained glass windows, and the fascinating astronomical clock. With its soaring spires and ornate details, the Église Saint Maclou is a must-see destination for anyone interested in history, architecture, and art.

History of the Church

The Église Saint Maclou stands as a testament to the architectural prowess and religious devotion that characterized medieval Rouen. Its construction, spanning from the late 15th to the early 16th century, mirrored the city's growing prosperity and piety during that era. The church was commissioned by the wealthy merchants and bourgeoisie of Rouen, who sought to establish a grand and imposing edifice that would rival the grandeur of the city's cathedral.

The patronage of the church was shared between the city's wealthy elite and the local clergy. The merchants and bourgeoisie provided the financial resources necessary for the construction, while the clergy oversaw the spiritual and liturgical aspects of the church's function. The church's design and construction were entrusted to a team of skilled masons and architects, who meticulously crafted the intricate details and soaring spires that have become synonymous with the Flamboyant Gothic style.

Throughout its history, the Église Saint Maclou has played a significant role in the religious and civic life of Rouen. It served as a place of worship, a gathering place for the community, and a venue for various religious ceremonies and festivals. The church also witnessed several notable events, including the wedding of Henry IV of France to Marie de Médicis in 1600 and the coronation of Charles X in 182These events solidified the church's position as a prominent landmark in Rouen and a symbol of its rich history and cultural heritage.

Architectural Highlights

The Église Saint Maclou is a stunning example of Flamboyant Gothic architecture, a style that emerged in France in the late 15th century and is characterized by its intricate details and flamboyant ornamentation. The church's facade is a masterpiece of this style, with its elaborate carvings, delicate tracery, and towering pinnacles.

One of the most striking features of the facade is the intricate Portail des Marmousets, or "Portal of the Monkeys." This portal is adorned with a series of carved monkeys, each engaged in a different activity, such as playing musical instruments, eating grapes, or pulling faces. These playful figures are a testament to the whimsical nature of Flamboyant Gothic architecture.

The church's interior is no less impressive, with its soaring vaults, elegant arcades, and stunning stained glass windows. The ribbed vaults, supported by slender columns, create a sense of height and grandeur, while the large windows flood the interior with light and color. The stained glass windows depict scenes from the Bible and the lives of the saints, and are considered to be among the finest examples of their kind in France.

Interior Highlights

The interior of the Église Saint Maclou is just as impressive as its exterior. The most striking feature is the elaborate altarpieces, which depict scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary. They are carved from wood and painted with vibrant colors, and they are considered to be among the finest examples of Gothic art in France.

In addition to the altarpieces, the church is also home to a number of sculptures and paintings. The sculptures include a life-size statue of Saint Maclou, as well as a series of smaller statues that depict various saints and biblical figures. The paintings include works by several notable artists, including Nicolas Poussin and Philippe de Champaigne.

Of particular note is the organ, which was built in the 16th century and is one of the oldest organs in France. It has been restored several times over the centuries, and it is still in use today. The organ is known for its beautiful sound, and it is often used for concerts and recitals.

The Astronomical Clock

The astronomical clock of the Église Saint Maclou is a masterpiece of medieval engineering and a testament to the ingenuity of its creators. Constructed in the 14th century, it is one of the oldest and most complex astronomical clocks in the world.

The clock is composed of a series of gears and dials that display the time, the date, the phases of the moon, and the positions of the sun and planets. It also features a moving celestial sphere that shows the constellations.

The clock's mechanism is driven by a weight that is wound up every day. The weight drives a series of gears that turn the dials and move the celestial sphere. The clock is incredibly accurate, and it has only been stopped a few times in its long history.

The astronomical clock is a popular tourist attraction, and visitors can watch it in action every day. The clock is also used for special events, such as concerts and performances.

The Stained Glass Windows

The Église Saint Maclou is renowned for its exquisite stained glass windows, which narrate biblical stories and historical events with vibrant colors and intricate details. Crafted by talented artisans over several centuries, these windows serve as a testament to the artistry and devotion of the people of Rouen.

The church houses over 100 stained glass windows, each telling a unique story from the Bible or the lives of the saints. Some of the most notable windows include the Creation of the World, the Last Supper, and the Martyrdom of Saint Maclou.

In addition to the biblical themes, the windows also depict scenes from the history of Rouen and Normandy, such as the Siege of Rouen in 1418 and the Battle of Bouvines in 12These windows provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and offer insights into the lives of the people who lived during that time.

In recent years, the church has commissioned several contemporary stained glass windows, which blend traditional techniques with modern artistic styles. These windows, such as the Window of Hope and the Window of Peace, add a touch of modernity to the church and reflect the changing face of Rouen.

How to Get There

The Église Saint Maclou is easily accessible by public transportation. The nearest metro station is Théâtre des Arts, which is served by line A. From there, it is a short walk to the church.

If you are driving, you can take the A13 motorway and exit at Rouen-Est. From there, follow the signs to the city center. The church is located in the historic center of Rouen, close to the Seine River. There are several paid parking lots in the area.

When to Visit

The best time to visit the Église Saint Maclou is during the spring or autumn, when the weather is mild and pleasant. During these seasons, you can comfortably explore the church's exterior and interior without having to worry about extreme heat or cold.

As for the time of day, mornings are generally quieter, allowing you to appreciate the church's beauty and tranquility without the crowds. However, if you want to witness the astronomical clock in action, aim to visit between 12 pm and 1 pm, when it performs its daily show.

The church also hosts special events throughout the year, such as concerts, exhibitions, and religious ceremonies. Check the church's website or contact the local tourist office for more information on upcoming events.

What to See Nearby

Rouen is a city rich in history and culture, with many attractions to offer visitors. In addition to the Église Saint Maclou, there are several other churches worth visiting, including the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen and the Église Saint-Ouen. The city is also home to several museums, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle de Rouen, and the Musée Maritime, Fluvial et Portuaire de Rouen. For those interested in history, there are several historical sites to explore, including the Vieux-Marché, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and the Palais de Justice, where the trial of Joan of Arc took place. Rouen is also a great place to shop, with a variety of boutiques and shops to choose from.

Where to Eat Nearby

Rouen offers a diverse range of dining options, ensuring a memorable culinary experience. For a taste of traditional French cuisine, try La Couronne, a charming restaurant housed in a 16th-century building. Indulge in classic dishes like Coq au Vin and Escargots de Bourgogne, accompanied by a glass of local wine.

If you're in the mood for something more contemporary, head to L'Aître Saint-Maclou, located just steps from the church. This trendy bistro offers a modern take on French cuisine, with innovative dishes made from fresh, seasonal ingredients. Don't miss their signature Duck Confit with Truffle Sauce.

For a quick and affordable meal, visit the Marché Saint-Marc, a vibrant market hall filled with local vendors. Here, you can sample regional specialties such as Camembert cheese, Rouen duck, and fresh seafood. Many stalls also offer ready-to-eat meals, perfect for a picnic in the park.

Where to Stay Nearby

Rouen offers a wide range of accommodation options, including hotels, hostels, and apartments, catering to all budgets and preferences.

If you seek a luxurious stay, consider the 5-star Hôtel de Bourgtheroulde, a historic palace with elegant rooms and suites. For a more budget-friendly option, the Hôtel du Vieux Palais is a charming 3-star hotel housed in a 16th-century building.

Hostels provide a sociable and affordable alternative, with popular options such as the Rouen Backpackers and the Odalys City Rouen offering dorm rooms and private rooms.

For those seeking independence, apartments are an excellent choice. Airbnb and offer a wide range of apartments in Rouen, from cozy studios to spacious family-friendly accommodations.

No matter your budget or preferences, you'll find a suitable place to stay near the Église Saint Maclou, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the city's rich history and vibrant atmosphere.


The Église Saint Maclou is committed to ensuring that all visitors, regardless of their ability, can enjoy the church's beauty and history.

Wheelchair accessibility: The church is wheelchair accessible via a ramp at the main entrance. Once inside, there is a dedicated wheelchair space in the front of the church, with a clear view of the altar and pulpit.

Accessibility for visually impaired visitors: The church provides large-print brochures and audio guides for visually impaired visitors. The audio guides are available in multiple languages and provide detailed descriptions of the church's architecture and history.

Accessibility for hearing-impaired visitors: The church offers hearing loops for hearing-impaired visitors. The hearing loops are located in the front of the church and can be used with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Photography and Videography

Photography and videography are generally permitted inside the Église Saint Maclou, offering visitors the chance to capture the stunning architecture, intricate details, and beautiful artwork. However, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience for all visitors.

  • Permitted areas: Photography and videography are allowed in most areas of the church, with the exception of the choir and the sacristy. These areas are reserved for religious ceremonies and are not open to the public.

  • Tripod use: The use of tripods is generally not permitted inside the church, as they can obstruct the movement of other visitors and damage the delicate flooring.

  • Flash photography: Flash photography is not allowed inside the church, as it can be disruptive to other visitors and damage the artwork and stained glass windows.

  • Commercial photography: Commercial photography and videography are not permitted inside the church without prior authorization from the church authorities. This includes photography and videography for commercial purposes, such as advertising or product promotion.

Insider Tip: A Concert or Performance in the Church

For an unforgettable experience, attend a concert or performance in the Église Saint Maclou. The church's stunning acoustics and intimate atmosphere make it an ideal venue for musical and theatrical events. Check the church's website or local listings for upcoming events. From classical concerts to contemporary performances, there's something for everyone. Immerse yourself in the beauty of this historic church while enjoying a captivating performance. It's a unique opportunity to experience the Église Saint Maclou in a whole new light.

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