Medieval Sites

Almost everywhere you go in Normandy you will find traces of a magnificent medieval heritage. Here is our guide to where to go and what to look out for.

Bayeux

In Bayeux, step back in time to the 11th century thanks to its Tapestry, which retraces William's famous victory at Hastings. Bayeux is a perfect example of a medieval Norman town.

> Historical town centre, with medieval streets and old houses.

> Notre-Dame Cathedral, consacrated in 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror.

> Bayeux Tapestry, UNESCO listed, 200ft-long hand-woven embroidery from the 11th century.

Caen

Chosen by William the Conqueror as an administrative seat for his Duchy, the city of Caen, largely destroyed during the liberation in 1944, has maintained the treasures of its medieval heritage.

> Abbaye aux Hommes and Abbaye aux Dames were built by William and Matilda to gain official permission from the Pope for their marriage.

> Saint-Étienne de Caen Church and the tomb of William the Conqueror.

> Wander through the medieval streets and the Vaugueux.

> Ramparts of 11th century Ducal Castle, one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe.

> Église de la Trinité, tomb of Queen Matilda.

Falaise

Birthplace of Wiliam the Conqueror, Falaise still houses the Château of the Duke of Normandy.

> Château de Falaise - built by Robert the Great, Duke of Normandy from 1027 to 1035, Normandy's medieval history and the story of William come to life via a tablet tour.

> Wander through the Old Town.

Rouen

Historical Capital of Normandy, Rouen leaves no visitor indifferent, with its fine half timbered houses, paved streets and its gothic churches.

> The Old medieval quarter, Rue Saint-Romain and Rue des Chanoines.

> Notre-Dame Cathedral, masterpiece of gothic architecture and resting place of Rollo and Richard the Lionheart.

> Aître Saint-Maclou, medieval cemetery for plague and epidemics.

> Rue du Gros Horloge and Gros Horloge to visit.

> Place du Vieux Marché where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in 1431, now stands a modern church, Eglise Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc built in her honour.

> The Joan of Arc Tower or Dungeon is all that remains of the castle built in 1204 by Philip Augustus and this is where Joan 's trial took place.

> New museum dedicated to Joan of Arc: the Historial Jeanne d'Arc combines a state of the art immersive exhibition space with comprehensive historical content.

...Close to Rouen

A stronghold of Richard the Lionheart, the picturesque town of Les Andelys dominates the meanders of the River Seine.

Château Gaillard, medieval fortress built by fiery Richard I of England, known as Richard the Lionheart. Today, the ruins of the stronghold of Les Andelys call to mind strength, power and invincibility.

Richard the Lionheart also lived at the Château de Robert Le Diable, close to Rouen - outside parts of the castle open to visitors.

Mont-Saint-Michel

Truly an architectural wonder and UNESCO-listed, the Mont-Saint-Michel is Normandy's most distinctive monument.

> Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey perched on the top of the rocky island.

> The medieval village and its lively pedestrian streets and shops.

Le Bec-Hellouin

Officially one of France's most beautiful villages, Le Bec-Hellouin's Notre-Dame Abbey still houses a community of Benedictine monks.

> Abbey and monastery of Le Bec-Hellouin, founded in 1034.

> Today's Monastic life for the Benedictine monks.

> Arts and crafts made by the monks, including earthenware, books and candles.

Harcourt

Harcourt is a charming village known for its estate, the Château of the Family of Harcourt.

> Château d'Harcourt is one of the best preserved châteaux in France, built during the 12th century by Robert d'Harcourt, friend of Richard the Lionheart.

> Arboretum, dating back to 1802 and considered as the oldest in France, which houses 500 species of trees from around the world..

Jumièges

In Jumièges, the romantic ruins of the most famous abbey in the Seine Valley have a close connection to William the Conqueror.

The Abbaye de Jumièges was inaugurated in 1067 after William was crowned King of England. Tablet tour available.

And nearby: the Abbaye de Fontenelle in Saint-Wandrille-Rançon together with the 13th century Manoir du Catel in Ecretteville-les-Baons, Graville Abbey and Montivilliers Abbey both in Le Havre area.

Fécamp

At the beginning of the 11th century, Fécamp was the centre of religious and political power in Normandy as the old abbey, church and ruins of the ducal palace bear witness. It was one of the residences of the Dukes of Normandy and in 1067 this is also where William celebrated his victory at Hastings.

> Eglise de la Trinité

> Palais Bénédictine and its distillery producing the famous Benedictine liqueur.

Other Medieval Places of Interest

The medieval Creully fortified castle, close to Bayeux; Crèvecoeur-en-Auge, the château is a unique example of a fortified Lord's manor dating from the Middle Ages where Les Médiévales are held every year; dives-sur-Mer, from where William and his army set sail for the Battle of Hastings, with the names of William's companions engraved above the porch; the medieval town of Honfleur on the Flowered Coast with its slate houses around the Old Dock together with Château Ganne at La Pommeraye and the battlefield site in Argences of the 1047 battle of Val-ès-Dunes.

Avranches, visit the museum to learn the secrets of the manuscripts of the Mont-Saint-Michel and also the castle and dungeon ; the town of Granville built on a rocky headland and surrounded by ramparts and which owes its name to the Grant family to whom William the Conqueror allotted some land; the moated castle of Pirou, one of the oldest and best kept Norman fortified castles; Barfleur, now one of France's most beautiful villages (Plus Beaux Villages de France), used to be the most important Norman port and the Dukes of Normandy and Kings of England's favourite port; Saint-Lô, surrounded by ramparts and whose first fortifications against the Norman invasions are said to have been built by Charles the Great (Charlemagne); Mortain, home of William's half brother, Robert Count of Mortain, who fought with him at the Battle of Hastings; the 13th century Coutances cathedral; Lessay Abbey founded in 1056 together with the Hambye, Sainte-Trinité de La Lucerne d'Outremer and Saint-Vigor at Cerisy-la-Forêt Abbeys; Cherbourg's former 11th century medieval castle; Saint-James with its fortification remnants (ramparts and Tour de la Redoute); Gavray castle, the Tancrède Museum at Hauteville-la-Guichard and many more sites: Gratot castle, Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte castle and Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Postel Abbey together with Bricquebec castle.

Domfront's ruined castle keep with its chapel and dungeon dating back to Henry 1st Beauclerc, son of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders; the medieval city of Alençon, conquered by William after a long siege; the Château de Carrouges surrounded by a moat; the Andaines forest which inspired 12th century storytellers with the legend of Sir Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table; the Bonvouloir Tower, of a rather unusual shape, in Juvigny-sous-Andaine; the ruins of the Saint-Evroult Abbey at Saint-Evroult-Notre-Dame-du-Bois.

Bernay Abbey, a magnificent example of Norman architecture; the town of Gisors and its 11th and 12th century castle; Château de Verneuil-sur-Avre; the covered market "halle aux grains" at Lyons-la-Forêt, one of France's most beautiful villages, built on the site of a former fortified castle; not far from Honfleur, the Notre Dame de Grestain Abbey at Fatouville Grestain where Arlette, William the Conqueror 's mother, was buried with Herluin de Conteville; the remains of Ivry-la-Bataille castle and of Montfort-sur-Risle castle; the Abbaye de Mortemer at Lisors, together with the Abbaye de Bonport at Pont-de-l'Arche and the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Fontaine-Guérard at Radepont; the abbey church of Saint-Taurin at Evreux with its 13th century shrine; the Saint-Thomas chapel and leper colony at Aizier.

Château de Dieppe built after 1435 on the site of a former dungeon to protect the town against the English and which now houses a museum famous for its ivory collections; Arques-la-Bataille Chateau, overtaken by William, and where Joan of Arc stayed before her trial in Rouen; Eu, the town where William married Matilda; the medieval town of Harfleur close to Le Havre.

Other activities

Keen on horseriding? Why not ride the 11 stages of William the Conqueror's Route from La Baie des Veys / Géfosse-Fontenay to Falaise?

The Ornavik archeological project to immerse yourself in the Viking culture, close to Caen.