French commune
Abbaye aux Hommes
cp=14000, 14300
maire= Philippe Duron| mandat=2008-2014
intercomm=Caen la Mer
alt moy=8 m
alt mini=2
alt maxi=73 m
sans=113,987 ( 275 000 in surburbs)

Caen (pronounced|kɑ̃) is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located 15 km (6 mi) inland from the English Channel.

Caen is known for its historical buildings built during the reign of William the Conqueror, who was buried here, and for the Battle for Caen—heavy fighting that took place in and around Caen during the Battle of Normandy in 1944, destroying much of the town.


Almost 600 years before the town was ruined in 1944 during World War II, it was similarly ravaged by war, when in 1346 King Edward III of England led his army against the city, hoping to loot the town, which was the richest in Normandy at the time. On the 26 of July his English troops stormed the town and sacked it, killing 3,000 of its citizens and burning much of the merchant's quarter. Whilst sacking the town, English officials searching the archives of the city, found a copy of the 1339 Franco-Norman plan to invade England, made between Philip VI of France and Normandy. This was subsequently sent back to England and used for propaganda purposes to justify the continuation of the war, and also the supplying/financing of the conflict. Only the castle of Caen held out, despite attempts at besieging it by the English soldiers. A few days later the English left, marching to the east and to their victory at the Battle of Crécy.

During the Battle of Normandy in World War II, Caen was liberated in early July, a month after the Normandy landings, particularly those of British I Corps on June 6, 1944. British and Canadian troops had been intended to capture the town on D-Day but were held north of the city until July 9, when an intense bombing campaign during Operation Charnwood destroyed much of the city but allowed the Allies to seize the western quarters of Caen, a month later than Montgomery's original plan. During the battle, many of the town's inhabitants sought refuge in the "Abbaye aux Hommes" (Men's Abbey), built by William the Conqueror some 800 years before. Post-WWII re-construction of the city that included the re-construction of complete districts of the city and the university campus took 14 years (1948-1962) and led to the current urbanization of Caen. Caen lost many of its historic quarters and its historic university campus because of the war and, as such, doesn't have, as some would call it, the 'feel' of a traditional Normandy town such as Honfleur, Rouen, Cabourg, Deauville and Bayeux.

The Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit filmed the D-Day offensive and Orne breakout several weeks later, then returned several months later to document the town's recovery efforts. The resulting film "You Can't Kill a City" is preserved at the National Archives of Canada.

From 1912 to 1993, the SMN produced steel at the SMN plant to the East of the city. The land is now an industrial estate used by the food industry.



Year 1070 of the Parker manuscript [] of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to Caen as "Kadum" ["Her Landfranc se þe wæs abbod an Kadum com to Ængla lande": Here Lanfranc who was abbot at Caen came to England.] . Despite a lack of sources as to the origin of the settlements, the name Caen would seem to be of Gaulish origin, from the words "cato", referring to military activities and "magos", field, hence meaning manoeuvre field. [René Lepelley, "Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de communes de Normandie", P.U.C., Corlet, Caen, Condé-sur-Noireau, 1996)] .


Caen is in an area of high humidity. The Orne flows through the city, as well as different small rivers known as "les Odons", most of them having been buried under the city to improve urban hygiene.

Caen sits convert|10|km|mi|0|abbr=on away from the Channel. A canal that is parallel to the Orne was built during the reign of Napoleon III to be able to link the city to the sea at all times. The canal reaches the English Channel at Ouistreham. A lock enables the canal to withstand the effects of the tide and permits large ships to navigate up the canal to Caen's freshwater harbours.

Main sights


The castle, "Château de Caen", built circa 1060 by William the Conqueror, who successfully conquered England in 1066, is one of the largest medieval fortresses of Western Europe. It remained an essential feature of Norman strategy and policy. At Christmas 1182 a royal court celebration for Christmas in the aula of Caen Castle brought together Henry II and his sons, Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland, receiving more than a thousand knights. Caen Castle, along with all of Normandy, was handed over to the French Crown in 1204. The castle saw several engagements during the Hundred Years' War (1346, 1417, 1450) and was in use as a barracks as late as World War II. Today, the castle serves as a museum that houses the "Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen" (Museum of Fine Arts of Caen) and "Musée de Normandie" (Museum of Normandy) along with many periodical exhibitions about arts and history . (See [ Timeline of Caen Castle] )


In repentance for marrying his cousin Mathilda of Flanders, William ordered two abbeys to be built on Pope's encouragement:
* Eglise de Ste.-Etienne, formerly the "Abbaye aux Hommes" (Men's Abbey). It was completed in 1063 and is dedicated to St Stephen. The current "Hôtel de Ville" (town hall) of Caen is built onto the South Transept of the building.
* "Eglise de la Ste.-Trinité", formerly the "Abbaye aux Dames" (Women's Abbey). It was completed in 1060 and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The current seat of the regional council ("conseil régional") of Basse-Normandie is nearby.


* Jardin botanique de Caen, a historic botanical garden
* Saint-Pierre Church.
* "Mémorial pour la Paix" built in 1988, charting the events leading up to and after D-Day. It is an emotional presentation inviting meditation on the thought of Elie Wiesel: "Peace is not a gift from God to man, but a gift from man to himself". The Memorial for Peace also includes an exhibit of Nobel Peace Prize winners and another one on Conflict Resolution in different cultures.
* Saint Étienne abbey-church, where a slab marks the place of the tomb of William the Conqueror, though his bones were scattered by Huguenots in 1562, during the French Wars of Religion.
* Parc Festyland, an amusement park to the West of Caen in the nearby town of Carpiquet. The park receives 110,000 visitors every year.
* Mondeville 2 is a regional shopping centre in adjoining Mondeville.


Recent Mayors of Caen have included:
* 1959-1970: Jean-Marie Louvel, MRP & Centre démocrate
* 1970-2001: Jean-Marie Girault, Parti républicain UDF
* 2001-2008: Brigitte Le Brethon, RPR & UMP
* 2008-2014: Philippe Duron, PS

In 1952, the small commune of Venoix became part of Caen.

In 1990, the agglomeration of Caen was organized into a district, transformed in 2002 into a "Communauté d'agglomération" ("Grand Caen" (Greater Caen), renamed Caen la Mer in 2004), gathers 29 towns and villages, including Villons-les-Buissons, Lions-sur-mer, Hermanville-sur-mer, which joined the Communauté d'agglomération in 2004. The population of the "communauté d'agglomération" is around 220000 inhabitants.

In the former administrative organisation, Caen was a part of 9 cantons, of which it is the chief town. These cantons contain a total of 13 towns. Caen gives its name to a 10th canton, of which it is not part.


Caen has a recently built, controversial guided bus system - built by Bombardier Transportation and modelled on its Guided Light Transit technology - and a very efficient network of city buses, operated under the name Twisto. Faced with the residents' anger against the project, the municipality had to pursue the project with only 23% of the population in favour of the new form of transport - residents were in favour of trams rather than buses. The road layout of the city centre was deeply transformed and the formerly traffic-jam-free centre's problems are still unresolved. The city is also connected to the rest of the Calvados département by the Bus Verts du Calvados bus network.

Caen - Carpiquet Airport is the biggest airport in Lower-Normandy considering the number of passengers that it serves every year, and offers commuting possibilities to the whole of Europe. Most flights are operated by Brit Air and Chalair Aviation and the French national airline Air France operates three daily flights to the French city of Lyon, while in the summer there are many charter flights to Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.

Caen is served by the small port of Ouistreham, lying at the mouth of the Caen Canal where it meets the English Channel. A ferry service operates between Portsmouth, England and Caen/Ouistreham running both standard roll-on-roll-off car ferries and supercat fast ferries, with the latter making crossing from March to November. The ferry terminal is 15 km from Caen with a daytime shuttle bus service for foot passengers.

Caen is connected to the rest of France by motorways to Paris (A13), Brittany (A84) and soon to Le Mans (A28). The A13 is a toll road while the A84 is a toll-free motorway. The city is encircled by the N814 ring-road that was completed in the late 1990s. The N13 connects Caen to Cherbourg and to Paris. The A13/N814 ring-road includes an impressive viaduct called the Viaduc de Calix that goes over the River Orne and the canal linking the city to the sea to permit cargo ships and ferries to dock in the port of Caen. Ferries which have docked include the "Quiberon" and the "Duc de Normandie".

Although a fraction of what it used to be remains, Caen once boasted an extensive rail and tram network. From 1895 until 1936 the "Compagnie des Tramways Electriques de Caen" (Electrical Tramway Company of Caen) operated all around the city. Caen also had several main and branch railway lines linking Caen railway station to all parts of Normandy with lines to Paris, Vire, Flers, Cabourg, Houlgate, Deauville, Saint-Lô, Bayeux and Cherbourg. Now only the electrified line of Paris-Cherbourg, Caen-Le Mans and Caen-Rennes subsist with minimal services.


* The University of Caen, "Université de Caen", has around 25 000 students in three different campuses, all linked by a tramway. The University is divided into 11 colleges, called "UFR" ("Unité fondamentale de Recherche"), 6 institutes, 1 Engineering School, 2 IUP and five local campus. The University is one of the oldest in France, having been founded by Henry VI, King of England in 1432.

* Caen also has a Fine Arts school ("Ecole des Beaux-Arts") and "grandes écoles" such as the École nationale supérieure d'ingénieurs de Caen.


Famous "Caennais"

Caen was the birthplace of:
* Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester (c. 1090-1147), illegitimate son of Henry I of England
* Jean Bertaut (1552-1611), poet
* François Le Métel de Boisrobert (1592-1662), poet
* François de Malherbe (1555-1628), poet, critic and translator (Malherbe's birthplace has survived)
* Tanneguy Le Fèvre (1615-1672), classical scholar
* Jean Renaud de Segrais (1624-1701), poet and novelist
* Pierre Daniel Huet (1630-1721), churchman and scholar
* René Auguste Constantin de Renneville (1650-1723), writer
* Pierre Varignon (1654-1722), mathematician
* Charlotte Corday (d. 1793), assassin of Marat
* François Henri Turpin (1709-1799), man of literature
* Jean de Crèvecoeur (1735–1813), French-American writer
* Jean-Jacques Boisard (1744–1833), writer who specialized in fables
* Gervais Delarue (1751-1835), historian
* Louis Gustave le Doulcet, Comte de Pontécoulant (1764-1853), politician
* Daniel Auber (1782-1871), composer
* Jacques Amand Eudes-Deslongchamps (1794-1867), French naturalist and palaeontologist
* Étienne Mélingue (1808-1875), actor and sculptor
* André Danjon (1890-1967), astronomer
* Marie-Pierre Koenig (1898-1970), general who commanded a Free French Brigade at the Battle of Bir Hakeim in 1942, Maréchal de France


Caen is twinned with:
* Pernik, Bulgaria
* Nashville, Tennessee, USA
* Alexandria, Virginia, USA
* Coventry, United Kingdom
* Portsmouth, United Kingdom
* Würzburg, Germany
* Thiès, SenegalCaen has been twinned with Alexandria, Virginia-USA since 1991. The sister city relationship sees delegations visiting between the two cities on a regular basis. Exchanges of students have been common. Musicians and choirs from the two cities have also made very successful exchange visits. The Toussaint/Halloween period is a time of year when a delegation from Caen will often visit Alexandria.

ee also

* Stade Malherbe de Caen, Caen's football team
* Caen Stone
* Transmitter Mont Pinçon
* Operation Charnwood


External links

*fr icon [ Caen City Council]
*fr icon [ Caen Borough Council]
* [ Encyclopaedia Britannica Caen]
* [ Mémorial pour la Paix museum]

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