The Men's Abbey
It was in an act of redemption for the irregularity of his marriage to Matilda of Flanders, his distant cousin, that William, Duke of Normandy and future Conqueror of England, founded the Men's Abbey in 1063. Work began on the building in 1066, under the direction of Lanfranc de Pavie, who was to become the first abbot of this prestigious Benedictine abbey dedicated to St. Stephen.
The abbey church, a chef d'oeuvre of Norman Romanesque architecture, influenced the construction of abbeys in England, in particular with its three levels of elevation and its harmonic façade. The chancel, altered during the 13th Century in a Gothic style, which is in perfect harmony with the nave, has, since 1087, sheltered William's tomb.
The convent buildings, in which the monks lived and part of which were reserved to hosting guests, were rebuilt in the 18th Century. Spared during the French Revoluation and the Allied bombings of June and July 1944, they today still boast remarkable woodwork, paintings and ironwork as well as a magnificent Tuscan style cloister.
In the cellar, beneath the former monks' refectory, the apple press is still intact. The Guards' Hall arises from the ground in the interior courtyard. Built during the 14th Century, in Gothic style, this Hall was used to host important guests or major gatherings. Today, it hosts the City Council Chamber. Further to the South, along the surrounding wall, the former bakery is now home to the collections of the Museum of Nature.
In 1790, the Revolution chased the monks from their monastery. In 1802, the abbey church bacame the parish church, and, two years later, the convent buildings were to become a boys' high school. During the summer of 1944, the high school and the church provided refuge for the citizens of Caen and survived the bombings intact. In 1961, the Malherbe High School left the site for a more modern building, thus handing the building over to the city council staff. In January 1965, the former Men's Abbey became one of the most beautiful city halls in France, which it still is today.
October 1st to March 31st
Outside school holidays :
Guided tours at 10:30 and 14:00 from Monday to Friday.
Saturday, no guided tours but possibility of free access to the monastery and abbey (subject to availability at the time of the visit - religious ceremonies taking place)
Closed on Sundays.
Complete closure weekends of January 25th and January 1st .
During school holidays and bridges in November:
guided tours at 10:30 and 14:00 from Monday to Friday.
Saturday , no tours, but possibility of free access to the cloister and abbey (subject to availability at the time of the visit - religious ceremonies taking place).
Sunday : guided tours 10:30, 14:00 and 16:00.
From April 1st to June 30th and from September 1st to 30th
Every day: guided tours 10:30, 14:00 and 16:00.
Closed on May 1st.
From July 1st to August 31st
Every day: guided tours at 10:30, 12:30, 14:00, 15:00 , 16:00 and 17:30 .
Monday to Friday : Guided tours in English at 11.00 , 13.30 and 16.00 .
From October 1st to March 31st
Full price: € 4.50
Reduced price € 3.50
Free - 18 years old, job seekers ...
From April 1st to September 30th
Full price: 7 €
Reduced price : 5,50 €
Free - 18 years old , job seekers ...