On the Wednesday of our week in Rouen with Faith, it was time to re-visit places Therese and I had been to earlier in our vacation, but this time of course with Faith. After a quiet morning and lunch in the apartment, we wandered over to Rue Saint-Romain and got in line to see the Historial Jeanne d’Arc exhibit, followed by refreshments at Rouen’s quintessential Salon de Thé, Dame Cakes. After that, Therese and Faith did some shopping while I went home to relax before a dinner of homemade leftovers.
Historial Jeanne d’Arc is of course a historic exhibit about Joan of Arc, specifically the trial in 1456 that “rehabilitated” her after her initial trial for heresy and execution at the stake in 1431. Video projections of actors playing the parts of the people who took part in that second trial are displayed on the walls of rooms in the very building in which both trials took place, Rouen’s Archiepiscopal Palace (or archbishop’s palace), which abuts against Rouen’s Cathedral.
As you move from room to room, you get to hear episodes in the trial. Before each video presentation begins, you have a minute to appreciate the historic beauty of these rooms. First is a Romanesque crypt from the 12th century (built the same time as the adjoining cathedral).
Next is a Gothic crypt that is used as the backdrop for a video projection enlivening the place of Joan’s birth.
Then we ascended one floor to a 15th century Gothic kitchen to hear the next part in the trial-story.
Then we climbed a winding Gothic staircase to the next floor.
On that next floor was the actual meeting room where sessions of the trial were held. They have arranged video screens around the room and benches for the audience – at any given time, faces of the characters will pop up on various screens, making it a challenge to keep up with where the person speaking is to be seen. The climax is when the 1431 judgment of death by burning at the stake is read, and the faces of all the many women who have played Joan in the movies are shown, breaking out into tears in reaction to the sentence. Overhead are the rafters that adorned the room even back then, but now with the modern video projectors attached!
After that, there are a couple of rooms with various displays and computer terminals, and visitors are invited to take their time exploring Joan’s historical context. My favorite part of that is the many movie posters of versions of the Joan of Arc story. There are also some lovely pieces of art work, original sculptures, for example.
Before we left, we got to explore the Salle des Etats, the “stateroom,” which was closed the first time we visited (apparently, it is a popular place to have receptions). The Gothic stained glass windows that cover one entire wall, with their white, black, yellow and brown depictions of the Passion of Christ, are wonderful.
I enjoyed seeing the Historial exhibit a second time. Having some idea of how the whole experience was going to proceed, I was able to position myself advantageously, and enjoy some parts that I had not seen so well the first time around. The only bad thing about this second experience was that we had to share it with a full group of people – there were probably 15 of us in total, often filling the small rooms of the exhibit. Since I had not taken a lot of photos of the historical rooms through which we passed on our first time, I had hoped to take more this time, but with all the people, it was a challenge. Nevertheless, I had fun, and I even bought a book from the gift shop!
For our refreshment time at Dame Cakes, right across the street from the Historical exhibit (and the archbishop’s palace/cathedral), we were seated on the second floor, my first time up there. From our seat next to the window, I had a good view of some of the cathedral’s Flamboyant Gothic details.
When we got to ordering our dessert, the waitress, who was the same person who had waited on us during our last time at Dame Cakes, took one look at me and said, “no cakes for you!” in English – she remembered me and my allergy. Indeed. I went downstairs and snatched up some of the few dairy free offerings at the cafe – a bar of typically awesome French dark chocolate, and a package of chocolates with nuts and dried fruits. The chocolates went very nicely with my pot of mint tea.