Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rouen's Palais de Justice

One of the great buildings in Rouen is the Palais de Justice. Built in 1508-1509, it originally served as the exchequer and then the meeting place for the Norman parliament. The palais was badly damaged in World War II but restored masterfully.

Recent construction led to the discovery of 12th-Century Jewish ruins beneath the palais's right staircase in the main courtyard. These ruins may be the oldest Yeshiva in all of France. Visits are limited, though, and I understand that the waiting list already runs through August.

Regardless of the attraction of ruins underneath, the palais's Gothic exterior draws the eye in many ways. There are dozens of gargoyles, running along all of the exterior walls.

Most of these are, of course, restorations, but the stonemasons who carved them have clearly expressed the medieval sense of humor and wildness. So here are a few of the gargoyles.

Finally, it's not a gargoyle as such, but this little dragon, looking peevishly over its shoulder, caught my eye.

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