Built over three centuries, the Cathédrale primatiale Notre-Dame de l’Assomption de Rouen is a Gothic masterpiece. It was the place where the Dukes of Normandy were traditionally crowned and several are buried in the cathedral, including the heart of Richard I of England, also known as Richard the Lion Heart. It also contains the tomb of Rollo, the founder and first ruler of the Viking principality that became known as Normandy. Other famous graves include the tomb of John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, who is considered responsible for the death of Joan of Arc.
The cathedral has the tallest church spire and the oldest recumbent tomb statue in France. Some stained glass windows date from the early-13th century. They have survived fire, a hurricane, lightning strikes, several wars of religion, the French Revolution, and two world wars. The latter is in part due to them being removed to safe storage during WW2, when parts of the building were badly damaged by bombing.
France is affectionately referred to as "the Hexagon" for its overall shape.French history goes back to the Gauls, a Celtic tribe which inhabited the area circa 300BC until being conquered by Julius Caesar.The Franks were the first tribe to adopt Catholic Christianity after the Roman Empire collapsed. France became an independent location in the Treaty of Verdun in (843 AD), which divided up Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire into several portions.The French monarchy reached its zenith during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, who stood for seventy-two years as the Monarch of all Monarchs. His palace of Versailles and its Hall of Mirrors are a splendid treasure-trove of Baroque art.The French Revolution ended the rule of the monarchy with the motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" On July 14th, 1789 angry mobs stormed La Bastille prison and began the Revolution in which Louis XVI, his wife Marie-Antoinette and thousands of others met the guillotine.One decade after the revolution, Napolean Bonaparte seized control of the Republic and named himself Emperor. His armies conquered most of Europe and his Napoleonic Code became a lasting legal foundation for concepts of personal status and property.During the period of colonization France controlled the largest empire in the world, second only to Britain.France is one of the founding members of the European Union and the United Nations, as well as one of the nuclear armed nations of the world.Text by Steve Smith.