“We knew that the church would be there, but we did not plan the walls,” says Benedicte Guillot, who led the excavations for the national Institute for preventive archaeological research (Inrap). The masonry of a church of the Fourteenth century has been discovered on the side of Notre-Dame de Rouen.

While the city is under the bombs in the middle of the Second world War, on June 9, 1940, a fire threatens to engulf the cathedral. To prevent the fire reached the monument, the Germans decide to blow up a group of houses adjacent to the religious building, on the south side. These homes, built in the walls of the church of the hôtel-dieu, built in the Fourteenth century, have not been rebuilt in the 1950s to leave space around the cathedral. These are the remains that archaeologists have excavated in recent weeks.

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“The locals have built cellars, staircases, and destroys some walls,” says the archaeologist. Benedicte Guillot Inrap

The researchers could not rely only on the indications of the Book of the Fountains , written 500 years ago by Jacques The Linker. Only the masonry of the walls of this place, subsequently being desecrated and turned into houses, have been found.

“over The years, the inhabitants have built wine cellars, staircases, and destroys some walls,” says the archaeologist. To better reconstruct the place, the researchers will use the photogrammetry. This technique will allow the representation of virtually the church in three dimensions from photos taken by the archaeologists at the time of excavation. “We’re going to be able to remove virtually any items that are added a posteriori and to see the church as it was in the Middle Ages”, explains Bénédicte Guillot.

A channel under the church researchers have discovered a channel that passed under the church. Benedicte Guillot Inrap

Lack of permission, the researchers could not dig to a depth of one metre. In rummaging around more, they would be able to date more precisely the cellars and see if some of the communicate, or even know if the church had a crypt. They have discovered a channel that passed under the church to supply the hotel-dieu in water. “We knew it was there, but nobody had ever seen,” says Benedicte Guillot. And its layout does not correspond exactly to what the literary documents indicated. They described going into the is ; it actually leads in the direction of the west.

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In addition to these elements dating back to the Middle Ages, archaeologists have found many objects dating back to the 1940s, such as bottles and jars are melted, or a sewing machine. “It is interesting to know the history of the war on the side of the civilians,” says the director of the excavations. This helps to represent what it was like for the people from disaster due to fire. For example, we see the business that they have had to leave.”

A history still unknown

These findings add to those of previous surveys on the parvis of the cathedral last January. The researchers had found a air-raid shelter, built by the Germans. “There was the idea that

bottles deformed by the fire have been found. Benedicte Guillot Inrap

if the Allies were bombing, they would not shoot at the cathedral,” explains the archaeologist. A find all the more important that the history of the buildings under Occupation in Rouen is poorly known. “It was necessary to rebuild quickly and no one has noted the developments of the time”.

The results of these excavations will be presented to the public in June 2020 for the annual exhibition of the Museum of Antiquities. Benedicte Guillot would like to make a lively exhibition on the impact of the war on the lives of civilians. For example, inviting as a witness a lady whose mother lived in one of the houses excavated by archaeologists. She kept at it of plates welded one to another by the fire.

further excavations will take place at the beginning of the month of October next before the result of the work planned by the city of Rouen. The archaeologist rejoices in it. “A large part of these houses missing will be as well known.”