Surrounded by the tallest cliffs in Normandy, reaching over 300 feet in height, Fécamp stands in a dramatic location along the Alabaster Coast. The setting attracted attention early. In the Dark Ages, a significant Benedictine abbey was established here. When it claimed to have miraculously acquired a phial of Christ’s blood, pilgrims flocked to its abbey church. Several Dukes of Normandy lavished money on Fécamp Abbey; in fact, two of them were buried in the abbey church.
Fécamp was also one of the earliest coastal bases for the dukes of Normandy, becoming a favoured residence, with grand castle. Here in Fécamp in 1035, Duke Robert I declared, to the surprise of his noble followers, that he was heading off on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He got his lords to swear that his seven-year-old illegitimate son, William, would succeed him should he die. He did die on his travels, so the boy found himself thrust into power. After surviving and winning terrible power struggles, William would return to Fécamp at Easter 1067 for a grand Norman celebration of his elevation to the throne of England, which he believed had occurred by divine providence.