Coutances Things to Do

  • Some of the Joe Beyrle story
    Some of the Joe Beyrle story
    by rexvaughan
  • Things to Do
    by rexvaughan
  • Purportedly numerous Franco-Prussian war dead here
    Purportedly numerous Franco-Prussian war...
    by rexvaughan

Most Recent Things to Do in Coutances

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    The German cemetery at La Cambe

    by rexvaughan Written Jun 13, 2012
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    Whatever the horrors of WWII, it seems right that there should be a final resting place for the German soldiers who died in Normandy. This cemetery is an understated place that houses the remains of some 21,000 of them and is managed and maintained by the German War Graves Commission. It was originally the site of a battlefield cemetery for soldiers of both American and German soldiers. After the war, the remains of the Americans were exhumed and transferred in accordance with the wishes of their families, many to there home towns and many to the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. La Cambe is one of six German cemeteries in Normandy. This poignant sign is at the front of the cemetery:
    “Until 1947, this was an American cemetery. The remains were exhumed and shipped to the United States. It has been German since 1948, and contains over 21,000 graves. With its melancholy rigour, it is a graveyard for soldiers not all of whom had chosen either the cause or the fight. They too have found rest in our soil of France.”
    The cemetery is obviously visited by German families, and I reminded myself that, whatever the character of the conflict or the soldiers, they were sons, brothers, husbands, fathers whose presence is doubtless still missed by those who loved them.

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    Saint Come du Mont

    by rexvaughan Written Jun 13, 2012
    The old church
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    As it is just a few miles from Carentan, this little town was the first stop on our tour of the D-Day Beaches and we really just heard stories and visited the old church here. There is at least one other thing worth seeing but our time did not permit us to visit the Dead Man’s Corner Museum which is here. It commemorates the battles fought by the US 101st Airborne Division who was leading the charge into Normandy via nearby Carentan. Of interest to me was the old church, the name of which I have not even been able to discover – probably Notre Dame. At any rate, its age is attested by the presence of both Norman and Gothic shapes of the windows. It was also the landing place of a legendary WWII figure, “Jumpin” Joe Beyrly who landed here, escaped the Germans and eventually served in the Soviet army as well. Remarkable story. Also, beside the church, part of the cemetery has a group of bare mounds which our guide told us contained numerous remains of soldiers who fought in the Franco-Prussian War. Quite an undiscovered history here it sounds to me.

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    Tour the D-Day Beaches

    by rexvaughan Written Jun 13, 2012
    Respectfully perfect
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    As I have mentioned elsewhere, the owner of our bed and breakfast is a retired British major general who is a military historian and gives tours of the D-Day Beaches. He does both one and two day tours, and we opted for the one day. Major General Hollands is a very knowledgeable historian and a good story teller which made for a wonderful day. We hit some lesser known places and events as well as a good visit to Omaha Beach. I highly recommend both his tours and his bed and breakfast. You can get details about the tours on the website.

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    Notre Dame Cathedral

    by rexvaughan Updated Jun 10, 2012
    The high altar illuminated by the lantern tower.
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    When we were planning our trip, my son expressed an interest in attending “maybe a grand cathedral in Normady” on Palm Sunday. At the suggestion of our B’n’B host, we decide on Notre Dame de Coutances. When we arrived we noticed a lot of people gathering at the rear of the church near an auxiliary building so we went back there too. They were all carrying greenery in preparation for a procession into the building. My son found us some greenery as well and we joined in. One of the things that surprised me was that the cathedral was virtually full. We were able to find seats to the side of the chancel and sat (well, we actually stood a lot) for the rather lengthy service. It was a full mass which lasted about an hour and a half. It was a chilly early April morning and we learned that sitting on stone pews and standing on stone floors in a huge stone structure could chill you to the bone. Reflecting on it, we realized that there would be no practical way to heat the church and can only imagine how people in earlier times coped with it.
    The present cathedral was consecrated on 14 July 1077 in the presence of William, Duke of Normandy and King of England. It was here that William forced Harold Godwinson to take the oath, the breaking of which led to the Norman conquest of England. Besides its historic significance, the cathedral is a dramatic piece of architecture. It is enormous, has incredible statuary and magnificently colored stained glass windows, some dating as far back as the 13th Century. It is a grand Romanesque/Norman structure well worth visiting.

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    Cathédrale - inside: the windows

    by Mikebond Updated Nov 30, 2008

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    Saint-Lo window
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    The cathedral of Celje is known for its beautiful windows. The most famous are the three windows of the Last Judgement, in the Southern transept. They were painted in the second half of the 15th century. Unfortunately, my father didn't photograph them...
    The first window in this tip is the ambulatory and depicts episodes from the life of Saint-Lô. It dates back to the 13th century and is one of the best kept in the cathedral. If you can read French, check this page to learn more about the window.
    The three windows in the second photo are located in the chapel called "La Circata", built at the end of the 14th century. However, they were remade in the 19th century by Vuillet de Bordeaux. Today, nine scenes, divided in three windows, remain. The left window shows the Virgin's funerals, Assumption and Crowning. In the middle you see the Adoration of the Kings, Jesus carrying the Cross and the Crucifixion. The right window shows the flight into Egypt, Jesus in the temple among the doctors and the marriage at Cana.

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    Cathédrale - inside: the architecture

    by Mikebond Updated Jan 19, 2008

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    the nave
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    The interior of the Coutances cathedral consists of a nave with two aisles and a transept. The windows in the transept were restored after WWII. Worth remarking among them are a 13th-century window depicting three martyrs and another with the Last Judgement dating of 16th century (unfortunately, my dad didn't took a pic of them, and he only had a normal camera with slides, he still hadn't got a digital camera!).

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    Cathédrale - overview

    by Mikebond Updated Jan 19, 2008

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    the fa��ade
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    The Gothic Cathedral was built between 1251 and 1274 over the remains of a Romanesque church destroyed in 1218. The façade shows two imposing towers, each of which has smaller pinnacles. Remark the typical "Norman tower" in the middle, where the transept crosses the nave. The style of the apsis is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic elements.

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    The Chevet is Noteworthy Too

    by hquittner Written Dec 9, 2007
    Northeast View (Chevet)
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    When the chancel of a church is elaborated so that the apse contains many projecting chapels, usually preceded internally by one or more ambulatories, so that it presents a rounded and shapely exterior, the French call it a "chevet". This prominence of the East end had its roots in pilgrimage churches when praying and visiting relics was a major component of 11C "tourism". By the 13C, the beauty achieved and the endowment of chapels was the money source. At Coutances the chevet has very shallow chapels, but the desire for beauty survives. Outside the cascading rhythm from the crossing tower downward is still evident. Inside, the double ambulatory is carefully articulated and screened by a blind triforium; its gracefulness has been much applauded. A century later an elongation was made of the axial chapel.

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    Enter and Study the Church Structure

    by hquittner Written Dec 8, 2007
    Nave to Apse View Inside Church
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    The Cathedral is moderately large, 93m long and 23m high with sturdy wide-arched arcades. The traceried aisle windows are tall and wide as well and require minimal buttressing. The support ribbings of the vault run unimpeded along the columns all the way to the ground enhancing the feeling of height. There is a triforium with a balustrade but only modest clerestory windows. The 17C organ case at the west end has a carved case with caryatids.

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    Notre Dame Cathedral: Start at the West Front

    by hquittner Updated Dec 8, 2007
    The Upper West Facade
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    The Early Gothic cathedral at Coutances is one of our favorite churches. We prefer the late Romanesque which this one was before it was destroyed in the early 13C. It was rebuilt (1235-50) as Chartres was being finished. The West Facade is illustrative of what we like best here. It was built with two identical towers rebuilt on the original sturdy Romanesque bases, now with slightly pointed openings. Unlike almost all of the churches for a hundred miles around these towers are capped by stone spires (fleches). Not only that, but the spires are encased in small turrets which hide the buttresses that are needed in the conversion from square tower below to octagon spire above. Further keeping the Norman Romanesque tradition, the towers still are joined by a balustrade, only now the new vaulted nave is hidden by a large traceried central window instead of a rose. The South Tower no longer is completely identical to its Northern companion because of the way it had to be restored after the WWII bomb damage.

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    Admire the Great Central Tower (& Transepts)

    by hquittner Written Dec 8, 2007
    Crossing Dome
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    When Sebastien le Pretre de Vauban (1633-1707), the great military architect visited Notre Dame, he ordered that a blanket be placed under the crossing and that he not be disturbed. He spread out under the tower and studied the sight for an hour, proclaiming finally that it was a structure "launched by a sublime madman". Many others agree to its refinement. (The view is seen better in the picture that heads our Coutance Introduction). It is reproduced in every picture guidebook and architecture compendium. In making our shot we followed Vauban's hint and centered our wide-angle camera on the ground equipped with a long cable shutter release, kept people away and made the shot. The dome outside is flattened and has only a gilded rooster on top. Otherwise the tower converts to an octagon to receive a spire. It is supported by massive crossing piers tat were in the original church. The transepts harmonize with the nave and are restrained with sets of lancet windows at the ends containing 13 or 14C stained glass, with no transept doors or porches.

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    Cathedrale de Coutances

    by sue_stone Written Jul 14, 2006

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    cathedral detail
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    The cathedral in Coutances is quite spectacular. You can't help but notice it at the top of the hill, towering over the town.

    It is a 13th century Gothic cathedral, with soaring towers and beautiful arches.

    Inside is some beautiful stained glass, set off by the bright interior, and a series of arches that make the cathedral seem even taller than it is.

    Well worth a look if you are in the area.

    Admission is free. Open from 8am - 7pm daily.

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    Gardens

    by Mikebond Updated Jan 3, 2009

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    garden
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    There is a nice garden close to the cathedral. Look at the beautiful flowers and the artistic flowerbeds. The French are specialists in arranging gardens.

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    Enter the Lady Chapel

    by hquittner Written Dec 9, 2007
    The Lady Chapel
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    The 14C axial chapel of the chevet is the Lady Chapel. Fittingly, it has sained glass windows and contains a revered Madonna and Child statue extracted from the church of St.-Nicolas.

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