The Men's Abbey was started by William the Conqueror in 1063 and consecrated in 1077. The Abbey was a rich and imposing collection of buildings, run by powerful abbots who were not above living well from the revenue they received from the community.
Like all such buildings, the abbey's fortunes waxed and waned over the centuries. Extensive restoration in the 18th century brought the glorious long and gracious façade and the elegant rooms behind. In 1790 the French Revolutionaries sent the monks packing but kept the building and their rich works of art. In 1804 Napoleon turned the buildings into the Imperial High School (Lycee Imperial). It housed the town’s citizens during the Allied invasion and escaped the destruction which the fighting between the Allies and the Germans brought to 75% of Caen. In 1965 it became the Town Hall.
Guided tours will reveal much of the old buildings; you can see some of the rooms on an individual visit.
- St. Etienne Abbey Church
Attached to the monastery buildings, the Abbey Church of St. Etienne was consecrated in 1077. With its rich Romanesque details, soaring towers, vast nave and Gothic chapels, it is a wonderful building. The church originally housed the sarcophagus with the body of William the Conqueror. But the church was sacked by the Protestant Hugeonts in the 16th and the Conqueror’s remains were scattered, all except a femur which is buried underneath a stone inscribed with an epitaph in front of the altar.L'Abbaye-aux-Hommes and St. Etienne Abbey Church Information
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 31 30 42 81
Guided tours daily 9.30am, 11am, 2.30pm and 4pm (1hr30)
Additional guided tours in July and August
Tours 3 euros
Website (in French)
Queen Matilda, William the Conqueror's wife officially founded the Abbey in 1062 on the northeast side of Caen. It's a beautiful golden stone building with some buildings open to the public on guided tours only, such as the refectory and the Great Hall.Abbaye-aux-Dames Information
Tel.:00 33 (0)2 31 06 98 98
Free guided tours daily 2:30pm, 4pm
- Eglise de la Trinite
Queen Mathilda is buried in Trinity Church, the old abbey church dating back to the 11th century. The huge nave is Romanesque, massive and impressive and the crypt is woth a visit to see the Last Judgement.Eglise de la Trinite Information
Tel.:00 33 (0)2 31 86 13 11
- Caen Memorial Museum
The impressive Caen memorial is a Museum for Peace, built by the city, commemorating the Battle of Normandy. A plain building with a fissure down the middle to mark the destruction of the city and the triumph of the Allies over the Nazis, it was built on the site of the bunker of W Richter, the German general who faced the British-Canadian forces on June 6th 1944.
The museum covers the main events of World War II using archives, testimonies by witnesses and the film Hope. There’s a panoramic projection of D-Day seen from both the Allied and the German points of view. In 2010 new galleries opened, telling the story of the Normandy landings.Caen Memorial Museum Information
Esplanade General Eisenhower
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 31 06 06 45
February-June 6 daily 9am-7pm
June 7-December 24 Tuesday t Sunday 9:30am-6pm
December 26th to 31st 9am-6pm
Entrance fee 18 euros
Children 10 to 18 years old 15 euros
Hotels in and around CaenLe Dauphin
Between the castle and the abbeys, the hotel is in a former priory and chapel. There's a good restaurant serving Normandy specialities
Address:29 rue Gemare
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 31 86 22 26
Outside CaenLa Ferme de la Ranconniere
An 18th-century fortified manor house converted into an extremely comfortable hotel. The restaurant is well worth the visit and is offering a special medieval menu for dinner.
Half-board is also available. Ask when you book
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