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“William the Conqueror, peace and quiet, and staircases”

Abbaye aux Hommes (Men's Abbey)
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Ranked #3 of 50 things to do in Caen
Certificate of Excellence
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Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: 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 Normandy. 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 England. 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. Monastic buildings 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 buildings 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.
Reviewed February 1, 2012

If you are at all interested in the UK's Norman heritage, you HAVE to see William the Conqueror's memorial and his tomb. What I love about the Abbaye is that there is plenty of normal City life going on too - a wedding and a baptism were in full swing when we visited. You have the option of a proper guided tour around the whole of the Abbey premises, which I did take many years ago and which is fascinating, but we were pressed for time so focussed on the cloisters, the abbey church and the fabulous Caen stone staircase spiralling up from the cloister/town hall corner.

Thank Filitosa96
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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154 - 158 of 542 reviews

Reviewed November 26, 2011

The 'Abbaye aux Hommes' or other wise known as 'Men's abbey' is located west of Caen center. As you arrive go through the main entrance and you find yourself a bit lost, there is no real sense of direction anywhere in the abbey, you just sort of wonder around looking at things. After this head over to the 'Women's abbey' on the other side of Caen about 15 mins walk away. Here there is a little more to see, for example any number of art exhibitions currently running.

1  Thank Benwilliams_10
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Reviewed November 16, 2011

what a visit, the guide was very interesting and so was the history of the monastery

Thank mobasserb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 21, 2011

William the Conquerors grave has pride of place in the Church of Abbaye aux Hommes and is free to visit. The church was very clean and well maintained with the outer walls lined with small annexes or chapels each to a different saint. While we were there the organ was playing - and very impressive it was too. Definitely worth a visit and within walking distance of Caen Castle and William the Conquerors Chateau ruins within its walls.

Thank MJPMiller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 1, 2010

The signs point to the town hall when in fact the entrace is around the corner via a small red door. As the final resting place of William the Conqueror it was a bit underwhelming. You've got to go as it is William but it takes 5 mins tops.

1  Thank TourismProfessional
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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