Caen Tourist Attractions
Place St Pierre
The central feature Caen is the Place St-Pierre, with a monument to Joan of Arc (1964). Here too is the church of St-Pierre (13th-14th C), with a 75 m/245ft high tower (1308), whose boldly soaring spire was destroyed in 1944 and subsequently rebuilt. The interior is notable for a magnificent Renaissance apse, with rich decoration and unusual stalactitic vaulting. Opposite St-Pierre, to the west, is the Hôtel d'Escoville, a Renaissance mansion of 1538 (restored) with a beautiful courtyard.
University (St Julien)
St Jean District
In Caen, south of Place St-Pierre is the St-Jean district, rebuilt after wartime destruction, with the church of St-Jean (14th-15th century; badly damaged in 1944 but since restored) and the broad Avenue du 6-Juin (D-day 1944), which runs south over the Orne to the railroad station.
Some 1,500 m/1,600yd south of the station is the Château d'Eau de la Guérinière (by G. Gillet, 1957), a water-tower in the shape of a top.
Rue St-Pierre, the main street of the old town, runs southwest from Place St-Pierre. 200 m/220yd along this street, on the right, are two handsome half-timbered houses (Nos. 52 and 54). Farther along, also on the right, is the church of St-Sauveur (14th-15th century), with a beautiful tower and a richly decorated apse of 1546. Rue St-Pierre continues past the church through a part of the town which escaped destruction during the last war and ends in Place Malherbe. A little way south is the Jesuit church of Notre-Dame de la Gloriette (1684).
Jardin de Plantes
In Caen, from Place Malherbe Rue Ecuyère runs west to Place Fontette, with the 18th century Palais de Justice (Law Courts). From here Rue Guillaume-le-Conquérant continues west to the imposing abbey church of St-Etienne or of the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, built by William the Conqueror in 1066 in Romanesque (Norman) style, together with an abbey of which little now remains, in expiation of his sin in marrying within the prohibited degrees. The choir and towers, in Early Gothic style, were added in the 13th century The facade of St-Etienne is particularly fine. In the impressive interior a stone in front of the high altar marks the position of William the Conqueror's tomb, destroyed by Calvinists in 1562.
Adjoining the church on the south are the abbey buildings, largely rebuilt in the 18th century, which were occupied for many years by the Lycée Malherbe and now house the Town Hall. Richly decorated interior (beautiful wrought-iron banisters, fine paneling, large refectory). From the Romanesque cloister there is a fine view of the church towers.
A little way northwest of St-Etienne, on the south side of an attractive churchyard, is the disused church of St-Nicolas (1083-1093), with a fine Romanesque porch and a beautiful apse facing towards the churchyard.
6km/4miles northwest of the town center are the ruins of the Premonstratensian abbey of Ardenne (12th-13th century).