Castle of Rouen

Departmental Committee of Antiquities
France - Rouen - Archives départementales de Seine-Maritime
6 Fi 1 / 16
Middle Ages
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Philip Augustus' Castle of Rouen (also known as the Castle of Bouvreuil)


Philip Augustus, king of France from 1180 to 1223, had the castle of Rouen built eight centuries ago, after his conquest of Normandy in 1204.


In the struggle between Capetians and Plantagenets, Philip Augustus profited from the weakness of his rival and vassal, John Lackland, King of England and Duke of Normandy, and confiscated his fiefs. He seized Château-Gaillard, occupied Lower Normandy, laid siege to the city of Rouen and made an entry into the town on 24 June 1204. This was the final conquest which allowed him to bring Normandy back within the royal domain. He proceeded to have the city wall destroyed and the Vieille-Tour (Old Tower) - the fortified residence of the Dukes of Normandy - was demolished.


The site chosen for this castle is strategic : on the Bouvreuil hill, which looks over the city of Rouen, where there were still the ruins of a Gallo-Roman amphitheatre dating from the 2nd century AD. All that remain today are the keep, which is called the Joan of Arc Tower, the foundations of the tower known as the Maid's tower, and one wall of the square tower.

This symbol of royal authority dominated the city for nearly four centuries. By 1591, it had been dismantled and being used as a stone quarry for restoring the town walls. Private houses and, later, religious houses occupied the site.


Philip Augustus implemented a building programme of unprecedented scope for the period, throughout the royal domain. He was able to count on the services of a corps of building engineers which engaged in a multitude of works, repairing fortifications, building new town walls, as at Paris, raising huge round towers like that of the Louvre : he is reckoned to have been responsible for the construction of at least 27 towers. Of the 11 towers which are still standing, 6 are in Normandy : Falaise, Gisors, Vernon et Verneuil-sur-Avre, Lillebonne et Rouen.

His engineers built at least 7 new castles : Dourdan and Montlhéry, the Louvre, Montreuil-sur-Mer, Péronne, Rouen and Yèvre-le-Châtel.


Excerpts from the guide The castle of Rouen and its keep, known as the "Joan of Arc Tower" by Dominique Léost, translated by Geoff Simkins for Tour Jeanne d'Arc - Musées départementaux de la Seine-Maritime, 2004.


For further details :


View 1 : View of the Old Castle of Rouen, demolished in 1590, engraving by E. Langlois (ADSM, 6 Fi 1 16)

View 2 : Map of Philip Augustus' castle, 1635 (ADSM, 6 Fi 1 17)

Views 3 to 4 : Maps of Philip Augustus' castle (ADSM, 6 Fi 1 18)

View 5 : Keep of Philip Augustus' castle by  E. Barthélemy, 1840 (ADSM, 6 Fi 1 19)

View 6 : View of the Castle of Rouen

View 7 : Photography of Joan of Arc Tower


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