Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Château de Rouen, Normandy

The castle of Rouen stands within the modern town of the same name in Normandy, France. Its massive donjon, with 12-foot-thick walls rising a full 90 feet, is all that remains of the castle built by King Philip Augustus, for in 1591, Henry IV ordered it to be dismantled. Today one can visit the donjon but the rest of the castle is reduced to its foundations.

Rouen castle before 1591. The heavily buttressed tower in foreground was the prison of Jeanne

The donjon was transformed into a ‘bunker’ by the Germans in World War II and the top of the tower is capped by a concrete dome to render it bomb proof. This is not the only transformation, for in 1870 it was restored and it is to this period that we owe the high, pointed roof and the wooden hoardings. When inside the hoardings one is struck at just how dark the interior is and just how far below is the ground!

LEFT: Exterior entrance to Rouen's donjon, Note the ‘gaff’ and drawbridge recess
RIGHT: Massive walling of donjon with three arrow slits

The castle will always be associated with Jeanne d’Arc for she was imprisoned here in 1431, not in the donjon, but in a heavily buttressed tower which stood on the gatehouse side of the castle. The donjon, like that built by Phillip Augustus at the Louvre, was detached from the main castle. Jeanne was taken, however, from her prison tower to the donjon where she was shown the ‘instruments of torture’ before being returned to her cell. The name Tour de Jeanne d’Arc is attached to the donjon and is perhaps due to this belief that it owes its survival.

Interior entrance to Rouen's donjon. Note the recess to contain the drawbridge when lifted

Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 30 Mar 2020 Updated: 16 Oct 2023
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