History of Latvia between 0 AD - 399 AD
An important development in the so-called Roman Iron Age (1–400 AD) was the spread of knowledge about how to smelt and work iron. The peasant culture of the Baltic made remarkable progress. This can be partly explained by the very lively trade relations between the Baltic and centers of the Roman Empire, particularly with the Danube Basin. The Balts exported amber, which at that time was valued higher than gold, and expensive furs. In return they received Roman manufactured goods and coins. At this period the Eastern Balts began to split up into Lithuanians and Latvians, and the Finno-Ugrians into Finns and Estonians. The former began to cross the Finnish Gulf and settle down in present-day Finland.
The Roman Iron Age is remarkable because even at that time the Eastern border of the three Baltic peoples was almost identical with the later ethnic and political frontiers. Beyond this border at that time were very sparsely populated territories of Eastern Europe; this proves that these frontiers have not been established in a struggle with some other nation, but developed naturally, as the natural cultural boundaries of the Baltic nations and as the maximum reach of these civilizations.
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-Etienne. 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 architecture. 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. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. 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.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).