Hotel de Ville, Cityhall and tourist office
Just next to the Abbaye des Hommes, another monumental large mansion requests your attention. This is the Mairie or Hotel de Ville (cityhall) of Caen. In it - for us tourists - a very important place: the tourist office. Here they can tell you everything about Caen and what events there might be of your interest. The building belonged to the Abbey and functioned as the appartment complex for the monchs.
OLD CAEN 4
Caen has about a dozen medieval churches. A couple (such as Saint-Sauveur le Vieux shown here) are little more than stark shells, showing the price of the city's liberation from the Nazis.
Others have been lovingly restored to their former glory, such as flamboyant St-Pierre directly in front of the Ducal Chateau which is probably the most decorative church in town.
Tomb Of William The Conqueror
The tomb of William the Conqueror of 1066 fame is located in the Abbeye aux Hommes. William the Conqueror died early on the morning of September 9, 1087 in Rouen. Gesta Regum Anglorum states that William, his stomach protruding over the forward part of his saddle, was injured when he was thrown against the pommel and his internal organs ruptured. He was fifty-nine years old and had ruled England for twenty-one years and Normandy for thirty-one more. In accordance with his wishes, he was buried in Saint-Etienne Abbey Church in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes.
Then something macabre happened. The monk of Caen writes that William was "great in body and strong, tall in stature but not ungainly." When it came time to bury the heavy body, it was discovered that the stone sarcophagus had been made too short. There was an attempt to force the corpse and, says Orderic, "the swollen bowels burst, and an intolerable stench assailed the nostrils of the by-standers and the whole crowd." Even the frankincense and spices of the censers was not enough to mask the smell, and the rites were hurriedly concluded.
William Rufus commissioned a memorial for his father, "a noble tomb, which to this day shines with gold and silver and precious stones in handsome style" with an inscription in gold. This memorial was to survive until 1522, when William's body was examined and reinterred. Forty years later, it was destroyed by a Calvinist mob and the remains scattered. Only a single thigh bone survived, which was preserved and reburied under a new monument in 1642. But even this was destroyed during the French Revolution.
Now only a simple stone slab marks the burial place of William the Conqueror. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle provides his epitaph.
"He who was earlier a powerful king, and lord of many a land, he had nothing of any land but a seven-foot measure; and he who was at times clothed with gold and with jewels, he lay then covered over with earth."