Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chateau Gaillard and Caen

After our trip to Provence we came back to Paris for a couple of days and then did a quick two-day trip to Normandy, to visit the area where the Allied landings took place on D-Day. On the way there we stopped in the town of Les Andelys to see Chateau Gaillard, a medieval castle overlooking the Seine. It was the stronghold of Richard I of England, Duke of Normandy, known better as Richard the Lionheart.

Chateau Gaillard was built in 1198 and was intended to prevent King Philip II of France (Philip Augustus) from invading the Duchy of Normandy. Richard chose this site for his fortress because the Seine curves sharply at Les Andelys and there’s a cliff about 100 meters high over the river, so the castle had a strategic position over potential invaders coming down the Seine from France. The fortress consisted of three enclosures separated by dry moats, with a fortified tower within the inner enclosure. It's pretty ruined, but the above picture shows what it would've looked like.

In the end, however, the effort was in vain. King Philip Augustus launched the conquest of Normandy and after a long siege, Chateau Gaillard fell. In 1204, Normandy was made part of the Kingdom of France.

We also did a quick stop at Caen, which is not far from the landing beaches. Caen was the city of William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy who in 1066 became King of England. Caen is also known for the Battle for Caen, the heavy fighting that took place during the Battle of Normandy in 1944, which destroyed much of the city. We saw the Chateau de Caen, built in 1060 by William the Conqueror, and visited the Abbaye aux Hommes (the Men's Abbey), which was completed in 1063 and is dedicated to Saint Stephen. William the Conqueror is buried there. 

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