Top Historic Sights in Caen, France

Explore the historic highlights of Caen

Church of Saint-Pierre

The Church of Saint-Pierre (Église Saint-Pierre) was built in the early 13th and the construction continued until the 16th century. The spire was destroyed in 1944, and has since been rebuilt. The eastern apse of the church was built by Hector Sohier between 1518 and 1545. The interior choir and the exterior apse display an architecture that embodies the transition from Gothic to Renaissance. Until around the mid 19th c ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Caen, France

Abbey of Saint-Étienne

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery 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. Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etie ...
Founded: 1067 | Location: Caen, France

Château de Caen

The Norman Château de Caen was built in c. 1060 by William the Conqueror, who successfully conquered England in 1066. His son Henry I then built the Saint Georges church, a keep (1123) and a large hall for the Duke Court. At Christmas 1182, a royal court celebration for Christmas in the aula of Caen Castle brought together Henry II and his sons, Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland, receiving more than a thousand ...
Founded: c. 1060 | Location: Caen, France

Mémorial de Caen

The Mémorial de Caen is a museum and war memorial in Caen, commemorating the Second World War and the Battle for Caen. The building and grounds are located in the northern suburbs of the city of Caen on the site of an old blockhouse. The architect was Jacques Millet and the original curator was Yves Degraine. The memorial is dedicated to the history of violence and intensive, outstanding conflict in the 20th Centu ...
Founded: 1989 | Location: Caen, France

Abbey of Sainte-Trinité

The Abbey of Sainte-Trinité (the Holy Trinity), also known as Abbaye aux Dames, is a former monastery of women. The complex includes the Abbey Church of Sainte-Trinité. 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 as the Abbaye aux Dames ('Women"s Abbey'), as well as the Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men& ...
Founded: 1062 | Location: Caen, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Klis Fortress

From its origin as a small stronghold built by the ancient Illyrian tribe Dalmatae, becoming a royal castle that was the seat of many Croatian kings, to its final development as a large fortress during the Ottoman wars in Europe, Klis Fortress has guarded the frontier, being lost and re-conquered several times. Due to its location on a pass that separates the mountains Mosor and Kozjak, the fortress served as a major source of defense in Dalmatia, especially against the Ottoman advance, and has been a key crossroad between the Mediterranean belt and the Balkan rear.

Since Duke Mislav of the Duchy of Croatia made Klis Fortress the seat of his throne in the middle of the 9th century, the fortress served as the seat of many Croatia"s rulers. The reign of his successor, Duke Trpimir I, the founder of the Croatian royal House of Trpimirović, is significant for spreading Christianity in the Duchy of Croatia. He largely expanded the Klis Fortress, and in Rižinice, in the valley under the fortress, he built a church and the first Benedictine monastery in Croatia. During the reign of the first Croatian king, Tomislav, Klis and Biograd na Moru were his chief residences.

In March 1242 at Klis Fortress, Tatars who were a constituent segment of the Mongol army under the leadership of Kadan suffered a major defeat while in pursuit of the Hungarian army led by King Béla IV. After their defeat by Croatian forces, the Mongols retreated, and Béla IV rewarded many Croatian towns and nobles with 'substantial riches'. During the Late Middle Ages, the fortress was governed by Croatian nobility, amongst whom Paul I Šubić of Bribir was the most significant. During his reign, the House of Šubić controlled most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia. Excluding the brief possession by the forces of Bosnian King, Tvrtko I, the fortress remained in Hungaro-Croatian hands for the next several hundred years, until the 16th century.

Klis Fortress is probably best known for its defense against the Ottoman invasion of Europe in the early 16th century. Croatian captain Petar Kružić led the defense of the fortress against a Turkish invasion and siege that lasted for more than two and a half decades. During this defense, as Kružić and his soldiers fought without allies against the Turks, the military faction of Uskoks was formed, which later became famous as an elite Croatian militant sect. Ultimately, the defenders were defeated and the fortress was occupied by the Ottomans in 1537. After more than a century under Ottoman rule, in 1669, Klis Fortress was besieged and seized by the Republic of Venice, thus moving the border between Christian and Muslim Europe further east and helping to contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Venetians restored and enlarged the fortress, but it was taken by the Austrians after Napoleon extinguished the republic itself in 1797. Today, Klis Fortress contains a museum where visitors to this historic military structure can see an array of arms, armor, and traditional uniforms.