Caen; almost blinded by the low position of the dazzling sun, we strolled through the city center.
First a quick look in the Abbaye aux Dames. Also known as Abbey of Sainte-Trinité (the Holy Trinity).
The abbey was founded as a Benedictine monastery of nuns in the late 11th century by William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda of Flanders.
Matilda is entombed here at l'Abbaye aux Dames (the Sainte-Trinité church). Of particular interest is that 11th century slab, a sleek black stone decorated with her epitaph, marking her grave at the rear of the church.
There were rumors that Matilda had been in love with the English ambassador to Flanders, a Saxon named Brihtric, who declined her advances.
Whatever the truth of the matter, years later when she was acting as Regent for William in England, she used her authority to confiscate Brihtric's lands and throw him into prison, where he died.
Our hotel was outside the immediate city center, near the Abbaye aux Dames seen on the right on this map.
We walked through the town center to Abbaye aux Hommes, seen here on the far left, for the grave of William the Conqueror.
It was of great irritation that we found restaurants opening only on limited
hours; it was very difficult to find a place open
before 19:00 - you couldn't even sit down in the restaurant at 18:40 with a glass of wine and await their start of service.
The French: they take unfriendliness to a whole new level
The Abbaye aux Hommes.
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men's Abbey'), is a former monastery in the French city of Caen, Normandy.
Dedicated to Saint Stephen ('Saint Étienne'), it is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies' Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition.
An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France.
The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic.
The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses.
Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century.
So much history we've read
starts or includes the person of William the Conqueror.
It was time to pay tribute to this location.
Unfortunately William's original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda's in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
William I (Old Norman: Williame I; b.(ca.)1028 – d.09Sep1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087.
The descendant of Viking raiders, he had been Duke of Normandy since 1035 under the style William II.
After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England in 1066.
The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.
In 1086 William ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, a survey listing all the landholders in England along with their holdings.
William died in September 1087 while leading a campaign in northern France, and was buried in Caen.
His reign in England was marked by the construction of castles, the settling of a new Norman nobility on the land, and change in the composition of the English clergy. He did not try to integrate his various domains into one empire, but instead continued to administer each part separately.
William's lands were divided after his death: Normandy went to his eldest son, Robert, and his second surviving son, William, received England.