Saint-Ouen Abbey, Rouen

Coordinates: 49°26′33″N 1°05′59″E / 49.44250°N 1.09972°E / 49.44250; 1.09972
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Saint-Ouen Abbey
Saint Owen Abbey[1][2][3]
Abbaye Saint-Ouen de Rouen
The Abbey Church
as seen from the Great Clock
Saint-Ouen Abbey is located in France
Saint-Ouen Abbey
Saint-Ouen Abbey
Location of Saint-Ouen
49°26′33″N 1°05′59″E / 49.44250°N 1.09972°E / 49.44250; 1.09972
LocationCity Hall Square, Rouen, Normandy
StatusAbbey Church
Dedicated17 October 1126
Relics heldSaint-Ouen
Functional statusDefunct
Heritage designationClassée Monument Historique
Architectural typechurch
StyleGothic, Flamboyant
Number of towers3
Bells3 bells : "Saint-Ouen", 4 tons (1701); "Marie", 3 tons (1651); "Julie Marcelle", 2135kg (1887)[6]
ArchbishopDominique Lebrun
Organist/Director of musicMarie-Andrée Morisset-Balier[7]
Organist(s)Jean-Baptiste Monnot[8]
Building details
General information
LocationRouen, Normandy
Antenna spire82m

Saint-Ouen Abbey, (French: Abbaye Saint-Ouen de Rouen) is a large Gothic Catholic church and former Benedictine monastic church in Rouen. It is named for Audoin (French: Ouen, English: Owen), 7th-century bishop of Rouen in modern Normandy, France.[9] The church's name is sometimes anglicized as St Owen's.[10][11] Built on a similar scale to nearby Rouen Cathedral, the abbey is famous for both its architecture and its large, unaltered Cavaillé-Coll organ, which was described by Charles-Marie Widor as "a Michelangelo of an organ". With the cathedral and the Church of Saint-Maclou, Saint-Ouen is one of the principal French Gothic monuments of the city.

360° panorama, interior
(view as a 360° interactive panorama)

The Abbey[edit]

At the transept crossing

The current church building was originally built as the abbey church of Saint-Ouen for the Benedictine Order, beginning in 1318 and interrupted by the Hundred Years' War and sacked and badly damaged during the Harelle. It was completed in the 15th century in the Flamboyant style.

The foundation of Saint-Ouen Abbey has been variously credited, among others, to Chlothar I and to Clotilde, royal saint and wife of Clovis I, but evidence is scanty. It was dedicated at first to Saint Peter; when the body of Audoin, Archbishop of Rouen (d. 678), was buried there; the name of St Peter and St Ouen became common and finally St Ouen only.

The history of the abbey, on record from the 1000, is unremarkable; a list of abbots is in Gallia Christiana XI, 140.[12] The fourth abbot, Nicolas (r. 1042–1092) was the first cousin of William the Conqueror, and supplied ships and men for the Norman Conquest.[13][14]

In 1660 the monastery was united to the Congregation of Saint Maur, and when suppressed, in 1794, the community numbered twenty-four. The abbey buildings were confiscated at the time of the French Revolution and were subsequently occupied by the Town Hall of Rouen.[15]


The church is 137 m in length under 33 m high vaults. The central crossing is surmounted by an unusual lantern-style tower similar to that at Ely Cathedral in England. The tower was completed in the Flamboyant style.

The well-preserved stained glass of the nave dates to the 15th and 16th centuries, and features jewel tones among panels of clear and frosted white glass. These materials allow more light to filter into the nave, creating a brighter interior than is typical of Gothic churches. Despite the use of Flamboyant tracery in the aisles, triforium, and clerestory, the nave maintains a conservative appearance through the use of compound piers, trumpet bases, and capitals which helps maintain harmony throughout the edifice.

The west façade was never completed during the Middle Ages. The present structure was constructed between 1846 and 1851 in a Neo-Gothic style that bears little resemblance to the original Late Gothic designs.


Interior with organ.

The church contains a large four-manual pipe organ built in 1890 by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. This instrument is considered to be one of the most important organs in France, and is notable for its powerful 32' Contre-bombarde. The organ stands unaltered and thus is one of the few of his works to speak with its original voice.

I Positif
Montre 8'
Bourdon 8'
Gambe 8'
Unda maris 8'
Flûte douce 4'
Dulciane 4'
Doublette 2'
Plein-jeu V 1'
Cor anglais 16'
Trompette 8'
Cromorne 8'
Clairon 4'
II Grand-Orgue
Montre 16'
Violon-basse 16'
Bourdon 16'
Montre 8'
Diapason 8'
Bourdon 8'
Salicional 8'
Flûte harmonique 8'
Prestant 4'
Trompette en chamade 8'
Clairon en chamade 4'
III Récit expressif
Quintaton 16'
Corno dolce 16'
Diapason 8'
Flûte traversière 8'
Cor de nuit 8'
Voix éolienne 8'
Viole de gambe 8'
Voix céleste 8'
Flûte octaviante 4'
Viole d'amour 4'
Quinte 2 2/3'
Octavin 2'
Carillon I-III 1'
Cornet V 8'
Tuba magna 16'
Trompette harmonique 8'
Basson-Hautbois 8'
Clarinette 8'
Voix Humaine 8'
Clairon harmonique 4'
IV Bombarde
Grosse Flûte 8'
Flûte 4'
Doublette 2'
Fourniture V 2 2/3'
Cornet V 16'
Bombarde 16'
Basson 16'
Trompette 8'
Clairon 4'
Soubasse 32'
Contre-basse 16'
Soubasse 16'
Basse 8'
Violoncelle 8'
Bourdon 8'
Flûte 4'
Contre-bombarde 32'
Bombarde 16'
Contre-basson 16'
Trompette 8'
Clairon 4'
  • Couplers: Tirasse G.O., Tirasse Pos., Tirasse Réc., Appel G.O., Pos./G.O., Réc./G.O., Bomb./G.O., Pos./Réc., Bomb./Réc., Oct. gr. G.O., Oct. gr. Réc./G.O., Oct. gr. Réc., Oct. aiguë Réc., Anches Péd., Anches G.O., Anches Pos., Anches Réc., Anches Bomb., Trémolo Réc., Expression Réc.


  1. ^ "Ouen (Audoin, Owen), St , bishop of Rouen". Reference to the name on Oxford Reference website. Oxford University Press. January 2010. ISBN 978-0-19-866262-4.
  2. ^ "Example of the use of this spelling". Archived from the original on 2016-05-09. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  3. ^ Walcott, Mackenzie Edward C. (1860). "Example of the use of this spelling".
  4. ^ "French article about the church and its bells". 31 March 2016.
  5. ^ Base Mérimée: IA00021986, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  6. ^ "French article about the church and its bells". 31 March 2016.
  7. ^ "Article on the nomination of new assistant organist (in French)". Archived from the original on 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  8. ^ "Article on the nomination of new assistant organist (in French)". Archived from the original on 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  9. ^ "Ouen (Audoin, Owen), St , bishop of Rouen", The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Oxford University Press, 2010-01-01, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198662624.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-866262-4, retrieved 2020-06-28
  10. ^ Walcott, Mackenzie Edward C. (1860). The Ministers and Abbey Ruins of the United Kingdom: Their History, Architecture, Monuments, and Traditions; with Notices of the Larger Parish Churches and Collegiate Chapels. London: E. Stanford. p. 127.
  11. ^ "Our Patron Saint | St. Owen Catholic Church | Bloomfield Hills, Michigan". 2016-05-09. Archived from the original on 2016-05-09. Retrieved 2020-06-28.
  12. ^ "Chartes originales antérieures à 1121 conservées en France". 10 June 2010.
  13. ^ *Gazeau, Véronique (2007), Normannia monastica (xe – xiie siècle)–Princes normands et abbés bénédictins (in French), Preface by David Bates et Michel Parisse, Caen: Publications du CRAHM, p. 492, ISBN 978-2-902685-43-1
  14. ^ van Houts, Elisabeth (1987), "The ship list of William the Conqueror", Anglo-Norman Studies, X
  15. ^ Hudleston, Gilbert Roger (1912). "Abbey of Saint-Ouen" . Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13.


External links[edit]