This will be a whistle-stop tour of some of the places I’ve visited in Normandy, in the north of France, during my several visits to the area.
Caen, now capital of the Basse-Normandie region, was William the Conqueror’s city, and the castle he built there has been restored following the damage it suffered during World War II. It now contains the Museum of Normandy and the Museum of Fine Arts. The Abbaye des Hommes was the final resting place of William the Conqueror but his grave was destroyed by the Calvinists in the 16th century.
Not far from Caen is the town of Bayeux. Its main claim to fame (and the reason for most tourist visits) is the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the events leading up to the Norman Conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy in 1066. Tapestry is the wrong word, as it is actually an embroidered cloth, 22feet long (68m) and 1.6 wide (0.5m). French legend says that Odo, bishop of Bayeux (and Duke William’s half-brother), commissioned the tapestry and that it was created by William’s wife, Mathilde, and her maid-servants. However, various other theories exist, and many historians now think it was designed and created by Anglo-Saxon embroiderers in England.
Rouen’s Cathedral is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, and several famous people are buried here, including Rollo, the Viking founder of the principality that became known as Normandy. There is also a tomb that contains the heart of Richard the Lionheart (the rest of him is buried at Fontevraud Abbey near Chinon).
In the 20th century, the Normandy landings in June 1944, led to the liberation of Normandy from the Germans, and two months later, to the liberation of France, and within a year, the defeat of Germany.There are still many reminders of the battles which took place in the summer of 1944. At Arromanches, you can still see the remains of the ‘Mulberry’ (artificial) harbours,built by the Allies to facilitate the unloading of cargo during the invasion of Normandy. Prefabricated in Britain, they were towed across the English Channel. Arromanches also has a museum dedicated to the invasion.
|Remains of Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches|