Ok, that title is a little pretentious. But from William the Conqueror (Bill, to his friends), to WWII, to an abbey on an island mountain, the region is rich in history. It’s also very scenic with cliffs and beaches and delicious, fresh seafood.
First up, let’s check out Bayeux, home to the Bayeux Tapestry (Spoiler: it’s not really a tapestry) and the Bayeux Cathedral.
The Bayeux Tapestry – Story of William the Conqueror
It’s actually embroidery on linen, not a woven tapestry. But the name stuck, so there you have it. Historians believe it was commissioned in 1077 to decorate the new cathedral of Notre-Dame of Bayeux (we’ll get there later). The tapestry is now housed in a dedicated museum in Bayeux.
Clearly a work of propaganda, it tells the story of the William and his conquest culminating in the battle of Hastings in 1066. The scenes are dynamic and detailed. As you walk along the 70-foot long illustration, the audio narration points out details and fills in the story. There are ships, feasts, falling horses, and severed limbs. You get the impression that whoever was designing the panels was an eyewitness.
They don’t allow photos of the tapestry, but follow this link to the panorama of the Bayeux Tapestry, source: “Official digital representation of the Bayeux Tapestry – 11th century. Credits: City of Bayeux, DRAC Normandie, University of Caen Normandie, CNRS, Ensicaen, Photos: 2017 – La Fabrique de patrimoines en Normandie.
The Bayeux Cathedral
Very close to the Bayeux Tapestry museum is the cathedral of Notre-Dame of Bayeux. The original cathedral was consecrated in 1077 and good old “Bill” the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England was in attendance. Parts of the current cathedral date from this period, with additional work in the 13th and 15th centuries and even into the 19th century.
Admission is free, but keep in mind that the cathedral is still in use for services.
They have their very own saintly relics of St. Catherine of St. Augustine. She’s honored as one of the six founders of the Catholic Church in Canada (but was born in Normandy).
The main attractions in Bayeux are the tapestry and the cathedral, but the old part of the medieval city is lovely to walk through. Definitely worth a morning’s excursion if you are in Normandy.
Next up, an amazing UNESCO World Heritage site, Mont-Saint-Michel.