Immediately across the street from the West Facade of the Cathedral is a 16C wooden 3 level house with exposed wood beams and carved support brackets at each level. It has its name because of the identification of the figures at the entry (in "modern" 16C dress). It houses a museum devoted to lace, an excellent local craft (fee). (We have never gone inside). To the left of the lower central figures is another female that I could not identify. The doorside Eve looks quite forlorn, but this one is happy (has she just been "wised-up" by the serpent?). The other carvings are saints or symbolic characters.
The crypt was in use when the church was consecrated in 1077. Its short thick pillars and vaulting support the built-up choir that was added in 1230. The crypt columns have interesting figurative capitals, but other fine ones are exhibited here without details about their previous location or ages. The frescos are 15C additions making the ensemble more attractive. They are on the walls or on the spandrels.
Being antagonistic to the way things were developing in England, Norman Catholics made the murder of Thomas a Becket a cause celebre. When it became time to build a South Transept (1280), its door was dedicated to him and the tympanum has a carving of the story (much worn). The Facade is Rayonnant Gothic. The niches of the transept have tombs and the walls bear some murals (15C)
After the East end was finished, it was decided to vault the Nave (about 1250). This could easily be accomplished with the new Gothic technics and it offered a better clerestory. The old Nave was an ideal base. Once again the designers broke with the developing trends and omitted a triforium. Instead they created a balconied clerestory passage at the base of very tall broad clerestory windows (note the peculiar heads studding the linear balcony element). Since they already had sturdy double walls they minimized the flying buttresses. On the nave sides they added small pleasant entry doors. Thus the magnificent Norman Romanesque Nave arcade remains. The arcade columns have triple-bud capitals. The spandrels above and the mouldings of the arches are all of different designs. This is a creative substitute for Oriental tilework or Byzantine mosaic while using local skills and materials. We have never seen its equal. In the point of each spandrel is a symbolic figure in a decorated frame. Thus the medieval compulsion for infinite variety is satisfied while retaining balance. It is a tour-de-force! It must be remembered that this was done in the 1060's when Southern French primitive mason-sculptors were doing the cloisters of Moissac and modern stonework was in its infancy.
After it was consecrated in 1077 the most immediate deficiency of the Cathedral was the absence of a liturgical area (East End). This was finally started in about 1230 in the new Gothic style, but with a strong local emphasis: a blind triforium with a narrow passage was placed above the ambulatory arches. It was as tall as any tribune (used in nearby structures) and gave a tall graceful 3-story result. Outside the chevet played down the new- fangled flying buttresses and emphasized the sloping roof overr the chapels keeping the beautiful "cascade" effect which is one of the best Romanesque qualities. The clerestory windows were wide and decorated with tracery. (This became the model of Norman Gothic). Later in the 15C a crossing tower was adde. It was topped in the 18C with a cupola which was much criticized but actually focuses the cascade of the chevet. The choir stalls are 16C.
Bayeux saw it's share in the fierce fightings in June 1944. When the D-day landings on the beaches finally were a success and the allied forces had a fixed basis along the coast, outbreaks from this area were of vital importance to the troops gathered here in masses. Bayeux was one of the first goals as well as a target to keep for the Nazi's. The town was a place of extreme battles between the allied and Nazi forces, which can been seen of the enormous cemetery just outside the town. Here is also a museum about the outbreak towards and beyond Bayeux. The Battle of Normandy had begun.
It is hard to visualize that the cathedral started as a Romanesque design of typical Norman type with a two-towered H, the horizontal bar containing the 10 apostles. The church was consecrated in 1077 and exhibited the "Bayeux Tapestry" around the nave. At that time the crypt, nave and facade with towers were built. (There was a flat wood ceiling, not arched stone). The new work began with the choir in 1230 (after Normandy became part of France and St. Louis was king); the West front remodeling started in 1280. The towers were buttressed and spires were added, the door arches pointed and figured tympani added in the inner lateral portals. The left one reads upward starting with the Last Supper and ending with the Crucifixion; the right one reads downward with the Father watching the Judgement Day decisions with the damned at the lowest level below the saved. (Both panels show much wear). Only a few of the older round-arched windows remain and some figured support brackets for the statues that were never commissioned. This "keeping up with the times" is typical of all the 12C churches begun before 1150 when the Gothic innovations began (look at Chartres, Le Mans) in the churches near Paris.
Bayeux is the perfect starting place to make a tour along the beach of the D-Day. From there you can easily reach Arromanche les Bains, Juno Beach, Longus sur Mer, Omaha Beach with the American cemetery and Point du Hoc.
One of the oldest craft in the city lies just behind the Tourist Office is the Rue des Teinturiers: here the layout of the Aure river banks bear witness to the presence of former tannaries and dye works.
The Bayeux tanneries florished untill the 15th century and then went into decline to be replaced by another fast growing industry: dyeing.
For two months, in 1822, the writer Balzav stayed with his sister in this district, at n°23 in the Rue des Teinturiers, formerly owned by an ancestor of the famous painter Toulouse-Lautrec.
Bayeux has got some nice example of Timbered Houses. This architecture was very common in the Middle Ages and it was made with a mixture of wood and stone.
These houses are built on a stone ground floor, used for commerce. This layout was designed to insulate the timber frame from the damp rising from the ground. To protect the fragile construction front the running rainwater the upper floors overhang the ground floor. In the mid of the 17th century, for safety resons, notably following frequent fires, new timber frames constructions were prohibited in Bayeux.
The town of Bayeux is built on the banks of the river Aure. It was very important for the growing of the town. It was importan for fishing and the the water was used for the craft industries like dyers, tanners and laundries. The water was used as an energy source as hydraulic power for the varius mills: flour mills, tannin mills or even colza oil mills.
Stone bridges have been built at the main crossing point and the Aure was transformed into a canal as early as the 12th century.
The Adam and Eve's House was built in the 14th century next to the cathedral. On the second floor from left to right you can see the Angel Gabriel, Adam, the serpent, Eve, Stoning to death of Saint Etienne.
On the first floor from left to right you can see a Siren, an Unicorn, a Shepherd, Venus rising from the waves and Mythical animal.
Next to the cathedral you can see the rests of the Gallo-Roman wall of the town of Augustodurum (name of Bayeux to the epoch of the Romans). It was built in the third century AD to protect the city from the Saxon raids
The beautiful museum Baron Gerard is specialized in the local porcelain, in the laces and it has got Italian, Flemish and impressionists paintings of the epoch among the fifteenth one and the nineteenth century. Free entry showing the ticket of the Musée de la Tapisserie.
This old medieval house is a museum, and it has a beautiful name:
MAISON D'ADAM et EVE
You can get in and watch the lace makers, or even take a course... The visit is free. The museum is closed on Sundays.
Bayeux Bobbin Lace craft should be as famous as in Brugges, Belgium.
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