One of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera, Haut-de-Cagnes is well known for its modern and contemporary art museums and galleries such as Fondation Maeght which is located nearby.
The village is located just 15 minutes’ drive from the coastline on top of a large mound known as the Plateau du Puy, on top of which a Roman oppidum was built, followed by a medieval castle, which was then known as the castrum, dominated in the Middle Ages by the Counts of Provence. The village got its big break in 1388 due to its proximity to the Var river when the County of Nice was seceded to the Kingdom of Savoy and Saint Paul was upgraded to bordertown garrison level – in the 16th century, repeated attacks from Charles V of Spain and his Habsburg dynasty that dominated most of Europe at the time lead French King Francis I to build the mighty city walls and fortifications that still stand today.
In the following centuries, the village developed its Baroque religious architecture and in the 19th century, the artists started to arrive, attracted by the light and the beautiful architecture of the village. One of the local hotel entrepreneurs, Paul Roux, owner of the future Colombe d’Or Hotel (the best place in town, at the entrance to the village), decided to lodge some artists for free in exchange for some of their paintings, which still adorn the hotel.References:
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).