William the Conqueror

It was going to be a long drive to Paris from Bayeux, so we searched the travel guides and discovered a couple of castles associated with William the Conqueror that would not take us too far off the direct route to the French capital.

The first castle we visited was Caen Castle, the Château de Caen, (top photos) in the city of Caen in Normandy. This castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1060, shortly before he became King of England in 1066. Although only sections of the original castle remain, its most striking features are the high fortified wall and the moat, now dry, that surrounds the structure. From the castle ramparts, we had good views across the city in several directions. Today, the site is home to several museums, which we did not have time to visit. Buildings within the site include the Hall of the Exchequer and a church. Unfortunately, the castle keep was razed during the French Revolution. Other parts of the castle were damaged by bombing during the Battle of Normandy in 1944. A statue by Rodin is a notable addition to the castle grounds.

Our second stop en route to Paris was the Château de Falaise (photos below), the castle where William the Conqueror was born in 1027, in the town of Falaise. It is sometimes known as Château Guillaume le Conquérant, acknowledging the importance of the man who was born within its walls. As with the castle in Caen, only parts of it remain, but its strong fortified walls and its three keeps still dominate the hilly site that rises up above the town. Parts of the original castle were also badly damaged by fighting during World War II. We didn’t have time to visit the museums within the castle grounds. We paid a brief visit to the very ancient cathedral nearby and stopped to admire the magnificent statue of William the Conqueror in the main square.

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