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Aître de Saint-Maclou

186 Rue Martainville, 76000 Rouen, France

History, Death & Art: Aître de Saint-Maclou

Aître de Saint-Maclou (the ossuary of Sant Maclou) is eerie and beautiful all at once, especially when visited early on a foggy, dark morning. Aside from Rouen's soaring cathedral, it is one of my favorite, albeit quite ghostly, landmarks of the city.

Its dark history began during the plague in 1348, when the cemetery of the church of Saint Maclou nearby quickly ran out of space to bury the enormous numbers of victims of the Black Death. Large communal graves were dug at Aître de Saint-Maclou, to lay to rest most of the parish. The 16th century saw a return of the plague. The bodies of 1348 were exhumed and moved to the buildings surrounding the cemetery, to make room for new burials. The cemetery was closed during the 18th century, and curiously houses a fine arts school today.

It can be tricky to find the small passage to the courtyard that housed the cemetery. Look for 103 Rue Martainville, and keep your eyes peeled; the inconspicuous sign will be above you, not on street level. Once inside, take a close look at the surrounding half-timbered and stone buildings, and you'll find wood carvings of death (crossbones, skulls, shovels to dig graves, etc) everywhere .

April – October: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m
November – March: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m


>>>Warm thanks to my lovely friends at AmaWaterways for an unforgettable river cruise on the Seine from Paris to Normandy. My early morning visit to Aître de Saint-Maclou was part of one of AmaWaterways bicycle excursions on offer – in fact they were the first to bring along a fleet of bicycles for their guests to use.