This small village on the river Aure turned into a major local city during the Roman era.
In the Dark ages and later Middle Ages as Christianity was expanding, the city became the seat of the bishop so a cathedral and many monasteries were built in and around Bayeux.
Odon, the most famous of the Bishops of Bayeux, lived in the 11th century, took part of the battle of Hastings in 1066 and was actually the half-brother of William the Conqueror. Like many Norman Lords and church leaders of the time he became very wealthy and decided to use his wealth to build a new cathedral. He also decided that people should know the reason why William, his half brother and Duke of Normandy, had decided to invade England in 1066. Thus he commissioned a piece of embroidery to tell the story and also to decorate his cathedral. This embroidery was named “the tale of the Conquest” and was made in the 11th century but is better known today as the Bayeux Tapestry. Despite the years and it’s age of nearly one thousand years, the 225 foot long medieval depiction is in almost perfect condition and well merits a look.
The town is one of the few places in Normandy that was unaffected by the bombing and artillery shelling of World War Two and suffered virtually no damage during the war.
This small town by the historic River Epte and the Seine River, between Rouen and Paris was the living place of the painter Claude Monet between 1883 and 1926. He lived there hlaf of his life!
As soon as a could afford it, Monet bought the house and modified the garden. Inspired by the Japanese paintings, he even created a pond and had a Japanese bridge built.
The house and the garden of Claude Monet were restored. It is now possible to visit them, the colors inside the house and the pieces of furniture copy exatly the one choosen by Claude Monet.
This castle was not built on a high ground but in the middle of marshes. This humid ground helped to better the moat, main defenses of the stronghold. Surrounded by legends, this castle hosts a piece of embroidery, inspired from the one of Bayeux. This one tells about the conquest of Sicily by the Norman lords in the 11th Century.
To see now : Restored during the start of the 20th Century, it is privately owned but open to the public.
In French, “Falaise” means “cliff”, in this case a rock outcrop overlooking a valley, and was thus a very good defensive position and has been inhabited for thousands of years. The Dukes of Normandy continued this and decided to build one of their castles there this castle on a cliff becoming the birthplace of William the Conqueror. The castle of Falaise as it is seen today is a typical example of the evolution of military architecture and warfare in the middle ages and is ironically situated close to the site of a very recent battle where the final few days of the Battle of Normandy took place in 1944.
After the Val es Dune battle in 1047, the young duke William imposed to his vassals the “Peace of God”. The main palaces of the Duchy where still in the North and the East of Normandy. In order to control better the Western side of Normandy, he decided to built a castle on the Orne river by a small town of tanners.
Very soon the Duke’s town grew round it. It was later surrounded by ramparts.
After he married Matilda of Flanders against the will of the pope, William had to negotiate his way to heaven. He would avoid excommunication by building 4 hospitals and 2 abbeys.
The 2 monasteries were built in the proximity of the new castle. The 2 monarchs (William and Matilda) are buried in the abbey churches.
Around the Men’s abbey grew the Abbot’s town (also fortified), around the Women’s abbey grew the Abbess’s town.
Once the fortifications became obsolete, the extension of the towns was no longer limited.
The 3 towns became Caen city.
The medieval city was very badly damaged during the battle of Normandy.
A part of the town remained on fire for 2 weeks after the first air strike on D‘Day.
Fortunately, the main historical buildings survived and the city was rebuilt with the local limestone.
The Mont Saint Michael is situated on the boundary of Normandy and Brittany and runs up to a height of 250 feet overlooking the bay between the two provinces, the bay having the highest and most impressive tides of Europe.
In 708AD, Bishop Aubert of the nearby town of Avranches was visited in a dream by the Archangel Michael and told to build a sanctuary on the top of the mount dedicated to the Archangel.
Thus this large offshore mount was dedicated as a monastic site and turned into a very active site of pilgrimage.
The Abbey, situated at the summit, grew wealthy on the donations of the many pilgrims who came to visit and its architecture and magnificence grew as the centuries passed.
A village sprang up around the Abbey at the base of the mount with strong defensive walls being added later as the site aquired a military strategic importance. On approaching the Mont St Michel today these walls still give a first impression today of a castle floating on the water.
The 654 founded abbey was devastated by the Vikings but rebuilt thanks to their heirs.
Nowadays church was dedicated by William the Conqueror.
Unfortunately, the abbey sold during the French revolution was turned into a stone quarry for 30 years.
The remains of the abbey are still impressive.
A 3D app allows to better appreciate the power of this monastery and the skills of the 11th Century builders.
The first Norman dukes lived in Fécamp and built a castle in the town.
This fishing town is now mostly famous for the Benedictine brandy.
The inventor of the recipe, Alexandre-Prosper-Hubert Le Grand also built the palace of the Benedictine.
Remains of the experimental German radar station (type Mammuth) are still on the nearby highgrounds
This coastal village is mostly famous for the peculiar cliffs that inspired many painters in the 19th Century including Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet,…
It also hosted a field hospital during WWI and a cigarette camp named Pall Mall during WWII.
A walk downtown the village offers the view on old buildings included a half timbered house that was first built in Lisieux before being dismantled and reassembled here.
A hike up the cliffs allows to appreciate the beauty of the landscape.
At low tide, we may even go on the site where Monet was almost caught by the tide.
In 1517, Francois the First, King of France developed a new Transocean port known today as Le Havre.
But before then then, Honfleur was the main port of the Seine estuary.
Honfleur later gained fame thanks to the impressionist painters that used to paint the town and harbour and also used to stay in the Saint Simeon farm where they got cheap and food and lodging.
There is a museum in the town itself dedicated to one of these painters, Eugène Boudin. He was among the first artists to paint outside and later met the young Claude Monet, introducing him to the importance of light in painting.
Honfleur is most famous today for its port known as the “Old Dock” where the medieval trading ships and war ships used to tie up.. But the town has many other things to show to the visitor.
First of all, the church of Saint Catherine which was built at the end of the Hundred Years War. The population of Normandy had fallen by two-thirds during the Hundred Years War and so skilled stone-masons were scarce. The villagers decided that to build the church the local boat carpenters would be a good substitute. These carpenters built a wooden church, the roof of the nave can still be seen today to be the shape of an inverted ships hull.
Honfleur today is now made up of a large number of Cafes, restaurants, Art galleries and shops selling local products.
Rouen city was the first capital of Normandy designated as such after the peace treaty which was signed in 911 by Charles the Simple, King of France and Rollo, the Leader of the Vikings who were, at that point, threatening Paris.
Rouen city was the second largest city in the medieval Kingdom of France. It benefited a lot from its position on the Seine River half way between Paris and the Seine estuary, with its port being deep enough for sea-going ships to dock there.
Its woolen industry developed and gradually the town gained more and more wealth and thus more and more independence.
Owing to the number of churches built there the city of Rouen is also known as the city of 100 steeples.
During the Hundred Years War, Rouen city was occupied by the invading English Army for 30 years. It was during this period that Joan of Arc was tried and executed in here. A monument now stands on the site where she was burned to death at the stake for being a witch.
In the 1970’s a church dedicated to Saint Joan of Arc was built nearby. Its modern architecture surrounds stained glass windows dating from the XVth century. These windows were originally made for the church of Saint Vincent in Rouen, but they were removed at the beginning of WWII and hidden in a cave in the Loire Valley. Following the bombing of Rouen during the Second World War the church of Saint Vincent was one of the buildings destroyed, hence the windows today being in an otherwise very modern church. Despite the entire left bank of the Seine River being bombed flat during the Second World War, Rouen today is still filled with magnificent churches including Rouen Cathedral, a building which was painted many times by Claude Monet. A walk along Rouens ancient streets will also allow you to discover the former parliament building of Normandy, the “old clock” with only one hand that once indicated the phase of the moon still showing the day of the week…