Mémorial de Caen
If you are visiting the D-Day beaches in Normandy, I strongly suggest you visit this museum first. Only then will you truly know what you are looking at, when visiting the beaches.
I came out teary eyed, from that museum. And when seeing the beaches afterwards, in all honesty they are simply beaches... it makes it all so vivid what happened there many years ago.
The museum takes you through the darkest times of WWII, then literally leads you up to the light, the here and now, out of that horror.
The Caen Memorial was born out of the desire to create a place for reflecting on wars on the basis of the experience of the memorable events that took place in Caen and the region during the summer of 1944. (text from website)
This is the most impressive, emotionally charged museum I have ever visited.
Visit La Trinite Church of the Abbaye aux Dames
As another part of the penance for their "consanguineous" marriage Matilda, wife of William the C., also built the Abbaye aux Dames with a church La Trinite, founded in 1062 and finished after much ongoing modification in 1120. The simple West front was distorted in the 19C; its fine steeples were destroyed earlier. It still shows the "H" form like its brother. The interior is Norman Romanesque with 2-bay sexpartite vaulting. It has a very long nave. There is a blind triforium to keep the 3 tier elevation. The apse was built last and is 2 story with quadripartite covering and an oven-vault end.
"William the Conqueror"
Caen is the beautiful capital city of the Region Basse-Normandie and of the département of Calvados and deserves this role, since it has experienced all the joyful and sad events that touched the region in the past.
Caen was a small village on rivers Orne and Odon when Guillaume Duke of Normandie decided in 1061 to buiuld two abbeys there. After becoming king of England as William the Conqueror, he elected Caen as his fixed residence and had a castle built. This choice marked the start of a long period of prosperity for the town.
"The French revolution and Charlotte Corday"
Caen played an important role in the French revolution: it was from here that Charlotte Corday left to Paris to kill Jean-Paul Marat in his bath in 1793. That murder was one of the most relevant facts of the post-revolutionary times and French artist Jacques-Louis David painted The death of Marat. Charlotte Corday was guillotined four days after killing Marat.
"The landing on Normandie"
The last important, but tragic, event that Caen had to experience was the landing on Normandie. At the end of the military operations that began on 6th June 1944 (D-Day), more than 70 percent of the city had been destroyed. Luckily, most monuments and buildings have been rebuilt an drestored and today Caen, with around 113,000 inhabitants, has become as prosperous as in the Middle Ages, thanks to its harbour, industries and cultural life.
Visit Caen and enjoy it!