Despite the addition of all sorts of towers, spires and vertical extensions, Rouen’s Cathédrale de Notre-Dame remains at heart the Gothic masterpiece that was built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The west facade of the cathedral, intricately sculpted like the rest of the exterior, was Monet’s subject for more than thirty studies of changing light, several of which now hang in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Monet might not recognize it today, however – in the last few years, it’s been scrubbed a gleaming white, free from the centuries of accreted dirt he so carefully recorded.
On summer nights, colours inspired by Monet’s cathedral paintings are projected onto the building’s facade in a thirty-minute light show known as La Cathédrale de Monet aux Pixels, transforming it quite magnificently into a series of giant Monet-esque canvases. Inside the cathedral, the ambulatory and crypt hold the assorted tombs of various recumbent royalty, such as Duke Rollo, who died “enfeebled by toil” in 933 AD, and the actual heart of Richard the Lionheart.