Mémorial de Caen

Caen, France

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 Century and particularly World War II. The museum was officially opened on 6 June 1988 (the 44th anniversary of D day) by the French President François Mitterrand. The original building deals primarily with World War II looking at the causes and course of the conflict.

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Details

Founded: 1989
Category: Museums in France

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jim C (4 months ago)
This was a very thorough museum with more than enough to do. We could have easily spent more than one day here. But there is so much to do in Normandy. Try going to the movie first, since it can get crowded. The food in the cafeteria was better than expected, so don't be afraid to eat lunch here. Don't forget to go outdoors to the exhibit outside as well.
Tyler Soriano (4 months ago)
Worth it for a great history lesson on the D-Day invasion. Very well put together. Worth every minute. Be prepared to be here close to 3-4 hours before your visit to the site, Omaha Beach. Make sure you grab a little souvinere bottle from the gift shop to collect some sand from the beach to take back home with you.
Asi DeGani (5 months ago)
A very well executed memorial to a time when we were (sadly) all in it together. Both the place and the exhibits work together to make it very clear that we cannot ignore the plight of others. Children may have some hard questions after coming here.
Kevin Marshall (6 months ago)
The museum/memorial was one of the best I've been to. You walk through a timeline of events with artifacts, pictures, and a short film about the times. You will need to spend several hours here to really see everything without rushing through. The whole thing is laid out very well. If you feel a bit hungry or thirsty, there is a bistro and a cafeteria inside. Good coffee and affordable food.
Trisha Trixie Hunter-Merrill (7 months ago)
We arrived here with a day trip tour and barely had a enough time to see everything. A 2 hour walk through we did in 20 minutes. The movie was pretty cool. If you are not from Europe and plan on seeing this place, then bring a bag lunch or be happy with the limited choices for food there is. They "say" there are all these food choices, but there really isn't. The snack bar upstairs only has sandwiches. The other area is for groups and the La Terrase Restaurant doesn't open until after 12 noon of which all the servers sit down and eat before and they won't come to the door to explain even though the door is open. Suggestion. If you are not open, close the door. Looked possibly good, but I will never know. I did not get to see the bunker but I heard it was not a big deal. the souvenir shop has really cool things, but remember you have to figure out how to get that back home to the states and you probably could buy the items online
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The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.