A wonderful vision when one approaches the Abbey from the Place St Sauveur, where one can appreciate its harmonious lines and its many spires. The adjacent convent is now used as... read more
The Men's Abbey - An architectural masterpiece of medieval art and 18th...
The Men's Abbey - An architectural masterpiece of medieval art and 18th century
Guided tours or self-guided tours of the monastic buildings (City Hall)
In the 11th century, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, King of England, transformed Caen into one of the most powerful cities of its time, which the Men's Abbey is one of the most striking buildings from this period.
Born in Falaise in 1027, William was the son of Robert
the Magnificent, the future Duke of Normandy, and
Herleva, a tanner’s daughter. Upon his father’s death,
William became the designated sole heir to the ducal
throne. His succession to the throne was challenged
by the barons, who considered William to be Robert’s
illegitimate son. William quashed the rebels once and
for all in 1047 and became the undisputed Duke of
Towards 1050, William married his distant cousin Matilda
of Flanders, despite opposition from Pope Leo IX.
The Church forbade their marriage, so Matilda and
William sought atonement by founding the Abbayeaux-
Dames, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and the
Abbaye-aux-Hommes, dedicated to Saint-Etienne.
Work began on the Abbaye-aux-Hommes in 1066,
the year that marked the Norman conquest of
Edward, the King of England, had named William,
the Duke of Normandy, to be his successor. Upon
Edward’s death and betrayed by Harold, Edward’s
brother-in-law, William took up arms to assert his
claim to the throne. William defeated Harold at the
Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066. William was
crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey on
25th December 1066, whereupon he became William
«the Conqueror». On 9th September 1087, he died in
Rouen. According to his wishes, he was buried in the
Abbey Church of Saint-Etienne in Caen.
Abbey Church of Saint-Etienne
Consecrated in 1077, the abbey church represents the
oldest part of the site, with most of the features dating
back to the 11th and 13th Centuries. The choir was
redesigned in the 13th Century to reflect the prevailing
Gothic style and is home to the tomb of William the
Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England.
The monastery was erected in the 11th Century, but
destroyed during the First War of Religion (1562-63),
before being rebuilt in the 18th Century. The monastic
buildings are built around a Tuscan-style cloister
epitomising the classical Italian style. The buildings
are today headquarters of Caen City Hall.
Together with the recently refurbished Place Saint-
Sauveur, the Abbaye-aux-Hommes represents a
unique heritage site.
Medieval buildings and agricultural
The abbey also used to be a farm and an inn. It still
houses a cider press, a carriage house and a bakery.
Two 14th Century buildings bear witness to the abbey’s
former role as a place of refuge and a political venue.
- Palais Ducal, which was restored between 2012 and
2013, now hosts the city’s art library and its collection
of contemporary art.
- The Guardroom, where City Council meetings take place.