It was strictly a coincidence that we ended up visiting Rouen‘s Musee Le Secq Des Tournelles on our first and last days in the city, but in my view, it was entirely appropriate that we did. After seeing the museum for the first time, Therese and I agreed that it was so delightful, and there was enough to see in their permanent collection to definitely warrant a second visit. And as the last day in Rouen approached and the question of what we should do on that day, the idea of seeing the museum again came up, and without hesitation we knew that would be the best way to finish up our exploration of the city with a bang.
Why do we love this museum so much? I’m sure you could trace our burgeoning fascination with wrought iron and cast iron to our trips to Charleston, South Carolina over the last few years. We have spent quite a bit of time enjoying the many wrought iron gates and fences there (and cast iron pieces as well). So while we skipped this museum of cast and wrought iron art the first time we visited Rouen in 2014, for this time it was at the top of my list. And sure enough, as I said, from the moment we walked in, we were thrilled.
On that first day, we had had a rather busy introductory day in Rouen. We had spent a good deal of the day stocking our kitchen, buying not just food (and spices) but also some utensils (and napkins), and getting some things for the apartment as a whole as well (like plastic clothes hangers). So the afternoon was already on the wane when we decided to salvage the day sightseeing-wise with a quick bus ride over to Musee Le Secq Des Tournelles.
The museum’s collection of cast and wrought iron was the personal collection of one of France’s pioneering photographers, Jean-Louis-Henri Le Secq Des Tournelles (1818-1882). His son, Henri-Jean Le Secq Des Tournelles (1854-1925), continued the collection, and ultimately donated it to the city of Rouen (in 1921) to serve as a museum collection. The museum is contained within the fifteenth century former Church of Saint-Laurent. The church had fallen into disrepair, but was renovated in the early 20th century and is now the permanent home to the museum. Admission to the museum is free, as it is one of several “small” collections/museums that make up the Museum of Rouen.
The collection includes numerous categories of articles. Some of the obvious things we would expect to find in wrought iron and cast iron, like gates and signs, are very much in evidence. And many other practical items such as keys and locks are to be found in abundance as well. There are also cases filled with household items made out of iron as well, such as scissors, cutlery and incense holders.
That first day we were like kids in a candy store, trying to cover every part of the collection and taking photos of many of our favorite things. But if we had stopped to read the identifying cards for each item, we would’ve been there long after the museum’s closing time. So having seen a lot, and promising ourselves that we would be back, we left just before closing.
On our last day, having visited so many of Rouen’s delights – the Cathedral, the Gros-Horloge, many other branches of the Museum of Rouen such as the Ceramics Museum – the one thing we had not done that we had meant to, was go back to Le Secq des Tournelles. Our friend Faith who was visiting us at that point was amenable to whatever we planned for that last day, but I think she had a fabulous time seeing it as well. We got a chance to revisit some things we had loved on our first time there, and to get a closer look at things we had had to skip over previously. And with more time, we were able to take our time and really drink it all in.
This is really a splendid museum, and I am so glad we had a chance to see it twice! Whenever we get back to Rouen, I’m sure that is one of the first places we will want to see again!