Abbey of Saint-Étienne

Caen, France

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).

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Details

Founded: 1067
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Gavin Mcgrail (9 months ago)
A beautiful place to visit. Plenty of wow factor and some humorous artwork in the garden to the front
Lukas Schwegmann (9 months ago)
Nice Place to take some fotos. We had a Good time here. Also there is an informative exhibition which explained world war II effects on the people of Caen.
Rosemary Lindsay (10 months ago)
We enjoyed the wartime exhibition and the chapel where William the Conqueror is buried.
Simon Kingsnorth (13 months ago)
A beautiful abbey and the tomb of William is worth seeing up close. An essential viewing for those with an interest in history, especially French, Norman, Viking or English.
Yorick (13 months ago)
Beautiful abbey which entry is free of charge. Very nice lead in glass.
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