Already it’s almost impossible to find a hotel room in Normandy’s capital, Rouen, for June’s 70th anniversary of D-Day. Naturally, many visitors will head straight to the city’s magnificent Gothic cathedral. And most of them will undoubtedly feel a twinge of disappointment as they find scaffolding covering two columns flanking the main entrance.
It was the same story last year when the cathedral’s rose was being restored, and there was a gap of only a few weeks before the scaffolding went back up again – not to be removed until 2015. You would think that the authorities would have held off until after this summer’s anniversary, but they presumably found that the gleaming rose was contrasting too sharply with the sooty black columns. All those centuries of dirt captured by Monet in his studies of the cathedral are being methodically erased.
But at least summer visitors can watch the night-time light show that projects Monet’s paintings on to the façade. And inside there’s another treasure. About two dozen statues of saints created to adorn the exterior tower over you along the south-facing aisle. These trésors de la cathédrale, as they’re known, will be rehoused in a few years’ time in a museum adjoining the cathedral. In the meantime, their presence here is a welcome one.