Caen, France

Caen is a city in the north-west of France, the largest city and capital of the Normandy region and the Calvados department. It is located about 20 km from the sea. It is part of the Agglomeration Community of Caen-la-Mer.

It is a university town, therefore very active during the school year. In summer, many tourists visiting the region stop over in Caen, mainly English and Germans who have come for the Memorial and the remains of the Second World War. Caen is a modern city since it was destroyed on half of its surface in 1944. The city contains an exceptional historical heritage: a large number of churches are located on a relatively small perimeter. The reconstruction of the city (work of Marc Brillaud de Laujardière), with a very Norman restraint, was hailed as a success.

Caen enjoys an oceanic climate, that is to say a temperate climate with cool summers and mild winters.

Caen temperatures are never excessive because of the proximity to the sea. This neighborhood makes it possible on the one hand to soften the too harsh winters and on the other to cool the summers which would be too hot thanks to the presence of the breeze. , this sea wind which cools the land as soon as the temperature on them becomes much higher than that of the water.



Abbey of Saint-Étienne
The Abbaye aux Hommes, or Saint-Etienne de Caen abbey, is one of the two great abbeys, along with the Ladies' Abbey, founded by William the Bastard the future conqueror, around 1060, in Caen, France. It rises to the west of the old city center and gave the name of Bourg-l'Abbé to the district that surrounds it. The Saint-Étienne church, the former abbey church, became a parish church after the Revolution. The conventual buildings, transformed into a high school in the 19th century, have housed the town hall since the 1960s. The abbey offers a very beautiful architectural ensemble built between the eleventh and eighteenth centuries and the impact of the Saint-Etienne church in Caen is essential on the history of Art in Normandy and England. The church is classified as historical monuments on the list of 1840, the cloister and convent buildings in 1911 and other constructions registered in 1927 and 1928.


Caen Castle/ Château de Caen
The castle of Caen is a fortified castle, founded around 1060 by William the Bastard, altered over the centuries, which stands in the French commune of Caen in the Calvados department, in the Normandy region. With its 5.5 hectares, it is one of the largest castles in Europe.

Saint-Pierre church in Caen
The Saint-Pierre de Caen church is one of the main religious buildings in the old city center of Caen. This monument is the subject of a classification as historical monuments by the list of 1840.



Etymology of the city name

The oldest surviving forms of the city name from the eleventh century are Cadon/Cadun, Cathim and Cadomo/Cadomi/Cadomum. However, based on similar derivations (especially at Rouen), it is assumed that a Celtic early form of Catumagos could have existed. This in turn means 'battlefield' as a composition of the two proto-Celtic words *katu- 'fight' (also in Old Irish cath, Breton kad) and *mago(s)- 'plain, field' (e.g. in Old Irish mag).


Prehistory and early history

The oldest traces of a megalithic structure can be found at the nearby Pierre Tourneresse of Cairon.



According to archaeological investigations, a Gallo-Roman vicus developed during the Roman Empire from the 1st to the 3rd century AD in the area of the later Abbaye aux hommes, which was close to a Roman road connecting Augustodurum with Noviomagus Lexoviorum.


Middle Ages

Caen, first mentioned in a document in 1027, experienced rapid urban development in the 11th century. Referred to as a burgus (bourg), it was the center of an extensive ducal domain, was at the crossroads of major roads, and had markets and a port. An important city in the Duchy of Normandy, it first flourished under William the Conqueror. He had a strong fortress built in Caen and around 1059 an abbey for women (Abbaye aux dames) and one for men (Abbaye aux hommes), in which he was also buried. Later, during the Huguenot Wars (1562), his tomb was destroyed and his bones were lost. Wilhelm's tombstone can still be seen in the church today. He had the monasteries built to atone for his marriage to his cousin Mathilde, which the Pope disapproved of. Both monasteries are among the most important monuments in Normandy and are now used as parish churches, abandoned by the monks and nuns during the French Revolution.

King William II of England and his brother, Duke Robert II of Normandy, made a treaty in Caen in 1091, settling their differences. While the Norman conquest of England (1066) had already promoted Caen's further boom, it also benefited from the fire in 1105 in the city of Bayeux, which was its rival. Caen developed into a center of intellectual life - so that the theologian Thibaud of Étampes († after 1120) studied here - and became one of the main residences of King Henry I († 1135); then in the late 12th century the administrative center of Normandy, as well as the seat of its highest court and court of accounts (Echiquier). Many high-ranking citizens of Caen worked for the royal financial administration. The so-called pierre de Caen, a local quarry stone, represented the most important export product from the city port; it was primarily exported to England. Between 5,000 and 10,000 people may have lived in Caen at the beginning of the 13th century.

The French King Philip II Augustus was able to take possession of Caen without resistance in May 1204 and confirmed the city's freedoms granted by Johann Ohneland on June 17th, 1203. However, it lost some of its previous status as a political and intellectual center. After all, the settlement development of Caens with its three districts (Bourg le Roi, Bourg l'Abbé, Bourg l'Abbesse) continued. Louis IX stayed here in 1256 and 1269. In Caen there was now an important textile industry, whose products such as sheets and linen fabrics were mainly exported to Italy. Trade contacts with England, on the other hand, decreased.

In the early stages of the Hundred Years' War, the city was conquered by King Edward III on July 26, 1346. conquered and plundered by England before moving on with his army and fighting the Battle of Crecy, which he won. On October 8, 1346 Caen received from King Philip VI. permission from France to build strong city walls. However, there was constant insecurity in Caen and its environs, compounded by the plague and rebellions by the inhabitants. Around 1357, an oath of six citizens (bourgeois jurés) took over the management of a newly established city government, which did not provide for the office of mayor.

King Henry V of England conquered Caen in September 1417. It remained in English hands until 1450, late in the Hundred Years' War. Most of the residents preferred not to emigrate. During the reign of the Duke of Bedford, the University of Caen was founded in January 1432 and officially began teaching in 1436. After the capitulation of the English occupation, Caen fell back to the French crown in June 1450. Thus, on July 6, 1450, King Charles VII was able to hold his ceremonial entry into Caen. Since then, the city has belonged permanently to France. Charles VII confirmed the status of the university established under English rule. Louis XI signed a treaty of alliance with the Duke of Brittany in Caen on December 23, 1465. The king was unable to revive the city's economy, which had been declining since the French reconquest; his attempts to set up large trade fairs in Caen in 1470 failed. Meanwhile intellectual life at least began to flourish again. It was not until the early 16th century that a general rise began, so that Caen, along with Rouen, became an important center for the spread of Renaissance culture in Normandy.


16th to 19th centuries

In 1542 Caen became the seat of the generals for Lower Normandy. In 1547 and again in 1584 and 1624 plague epidemics raged in the city. The Reformation found many supporters here. At the time of the Huguenot Wars, Caen fell into the hands of the Huguenots in April 1562, but it soon surrendered again to the French king. Later, with Coligny's help, the Reformed conquered the castle. After the Edict of Amboise (March 19, 1563), Caen was less affected by the ongoing unrest. During the existence of the Holy League, the city supported the king's party, and in 1589 the parliamentarians of Normandy, loyal to the king, temporarily went here. In 1639 the uprising of the Nu-pieds (i.e. "barefooted ones") was cruelly suppressed.

During the reign of Louis XIV, the city experienced an economic boom, but this ended when the Huguenots emigrated in 1685 following the repeal of the Edict of Nantes. In addition, the port of the city silted up. In the period leading up to the French Revolution, there were several riots as a result of high grain prices. With the outbreak of the Revolution, on July 18, 1789, the inhabitants seized the castle of Caen, of which Charles-François Dumouriez had recently become commander. On August 12, 1789, a crowd massacred the new castle commander, Henri de Belzunce. After the fall of the Girondins (end of May 1793), General Wimpffen launched a failed uprising against the Jacobins from Caen. Charlotte Corday, then living in Caen, set out from here in July 1793 to assassinate Jean Paul Marat. In 1815 the city was conquered by the Prussian First Army Corps and the citadel was occupied.


20th century

During the First World War, a prisoner of war camp for German soldiers was set up in Caen. When the Western Allies chose the Normandy coast as the landing site for the invasion in 1944 during the Second World War, Caen was of particular importance as a railway junction. After the successful landing of the British, Canadians and Americans on June 6, 1944 (D-Day), initially only the British together with French commando units advanced on Caen; later other Allied troops joined them. According to Operation Overlord, the plan was to occupy the city in a few days, because the rapid capture of Caen as the first major city on French soil would have had a major strategic and psychological war effect.

The German defenders put up an unexpectedly massive resistance. During the Battle of Caen, the city was almost completely destroyed. It was not until July 19, 1944 that the British and Canadians managed to completely capture Caen.

The reconstruction of Caen lasted from 1948 to 1962. On June 6, 2004, Gerhard Schröder was the first German Chancellor to be invited to the anniversary celebrations of the invasion.



The inhabitants belong to the most diverse religions, the most widespread being Catholicism, followed by Protestants, Muslims and Jews. The high proportion of Muslims results from immigration from the former French colonies in Africa and Asia, who settled here after the Second World War.


Infrastructure and economy

The Tramway de Caen, a track-guided trolleybus on pneumatic tires, operated in Caen until December 31, 2017. For cost reasons and because of numerous breakdowns, it was decided to discontinue the system and replace it with a conventional tram. The start of operations took place on July 27, 2019.

Caen-Carpiquet Airport is located outside of the city, near the village of Carpiquet, and offers a few domestic flights but also seasonal flights e.g. B. to Spain, Malta and Croatia. With over 100,000 passengers a year, the airport is the most important in Normandy. Caen also has a dense network of bus routes. The city can also be reached by smaller boats via the Canal de Caen à la Mer, which runs parallel to the River Orne to its mouth at Ouistreham. In addition to the marina, the city of Caen also has the commercial and ferry port of Caen-Ouistreham, with daily ferries to Portsmouth. The railway line to Paris is to be partially rebuilt in the coming decade and the journey time will be reduced from 1:45 hours to one hour.

Established businesses
The company NXP Semiconductors maintains a semiconductor plant with a research and development department in Caen. There are also production facilities of the companies Renault and Bosch. However, the largest employer in the region is the university hospital. Caen is also the headquarters of Groupe Hamelin, which manufactures stationery and office supplies.