The Abbaye-aux-Dames (Ladies' Abbey) in Caen was founded by Queen Mathilda, the wife of William the Conqueror, in 1062.
History of the Abbaye aux Dames
William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda founded two abbeys in Caen, one for men and one for women, in expiation of their uncanonical marriage (they were cousins). Matilda's abbey, the Abbey-aux-Dames, was founded in 1062 and dedicated in 1066, the year her husband conquered England. The queen was buried in the choir in 1083.
The original spires of the abbey church were destroyed in the Hundred Years' War and replaced with the present short towers in the early 18th century. The abbey buildings, which were rebuilt in the 18th century, functioned for a time as a hospital. They were beautifully restored in the 1980s by the Regional Council, who now use them as offices.
What to See at the Abbaye aux Dames
The abbey's Eglise de la Trinité (Trinity Church) is a fine example of 11th-century Romanesque architecture. The long nave is plain, with tall round arches typical of Norman Romanesque churches. The choir, the vault and the upper levels of the nave date from the early 12th century. Queen Matilda is buried under a slab of black marble in the choir.
As the headquarters of the Regional Council, the 18th-century abbey buildings are mostly closed to the public. However, the arcaded courtyard and ground-floor reception rooms can be viewed during free guided tours.
Quick Facts on the Abbaye aux Dames
|Abbaye aux Dames · Ladies' Abbey
|Visitor and Contact Information
|49.186349° N, 0.353006° W
|Pl. de la Reine-Mathilde
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- Kenneth John Conant, Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture 800-1200 (Pelican History of Art) (Yale University Press, 1993), 447-48.
- Abbaye aux Dames - Fodor's France
- Abbaye aux Dames - Frommer's France
- Abbaye aux Dames - Rough Guide France
- Photos of the Abbaye aux Dames - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of the Abbaye aux Dames, Caen
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