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Caen Castle. A ten Centuries Old Fortress within the Town

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April 2010

Edited by Joseph Decaëns and Adrien Dubois

With the collaboration of Micaël Allainguillaume, Gaël Carré, Stéphanie Dervin, Anne-Marie Flambard Héricher, Bénédicte Guillot, Laurence Jean-Marie, Pascal Leroux, Jean-Marie Levesque and Jean-Yves Marin

Photography by François Decaëns

Translation : Christine Anne Smith and Nicola Coulthard

19x19 cm, 128 pages, 15 €

ISBN 978-2-902685-75-2

Founded by William the Conqueror, the castle of Caen was ’rediscovered’ after World War II, yielding ever more historical information thanks to archaeologists and historians working on the project, starting with Michel de Boüard. Although evidence of the first Duke’s palace is today quite scant, the Hall of the Exchequer has retained some of that magnificence that it must have exuded in the XIIth century, despite transformations through time. As for the castle keep, razed during the French Revolution, its foundations continue to fascinate many a visitor calling to mind the Anglo-Norman origins of the edifice, whereas the Fields Gate (Porte des Champs) built in the XIIIth century harks back to the days of the return of Normandy to French possession, and finally the St. Peter barbican recalls the Hundred Years’ War.

We should nevertheless remember what the castle enceinte with its towers and drawbridge used to be in the Middle Ages – a town within the town – with its parish church dedicated to St. George. Today, restored to its pride of place, the castle lies in the heart of the town and has become an essential cultural venue, housing none other than the Museum of Normandy, with its recently opened Rampart Rooms and the Fine Arts’ Museum attracting art and history lovers from across the world.


Timeline landmarks

A castle within the town

The ‘rediscovery’ of the castle

The origins of Caen

The castle and the town

The site and its organization

Ditches and underground passages

The rampart

The south rampart and towers

The NW rampart until the early XIIIth century

The NW rampart after the construction of the keep

Around the Duke’s Palace (XIth-XIIth century)

The age of the Dukes of Normandy

Entrance to the castle in the XIth and XIIth centuries

The Anglo-Norman keep and its evolution in time

The Duke’s Palace excavated by Michel de Boüard

The Exchequer Hall of Normandy and the great Castle Hall

The Exchequer Hall

Archaeological artifacts found in the cistern of the Exchequer Hall

Life in the royal castle

1204 and its aftermath

The mantlet or chemise wall around the castle keep

The courtyard of the chastel or ‘little castle’

The kitchens and the Lord’s Manor (Manoir du Châtelain)

The prisons

The Fields Gate (“Porte des Champs”) and the ‘French’ barbican

St. George’s church : the exterior

St. George’s church : the interior

A parish within the castle

The XIIIth century forge

The XIVth century house and the large XVIth century building

The great XVIth century edifice

Organization of the NW area

Pottery discovered during recent excavations

The Hundred Years’ War and St. Peter’s Gate

Caen during the Torment Years (1340-1417)

The English occupation (1417-1450)

St. Peter’s Gate (Porte Saint-Pierre) et the ‘English’ barbican

From the garrison to the museums (XVIth-XXth centuries)

The castle in the Modern and Post-modern periods

The Governor’s Lodge

The French Revolution and the Empire : destruction of the castle keep

The castle regiment

Caen castle, 1939-1944


The Enceinte of the Museums

The Rampart Rooms

Chronology of the constructions

XIth century

XIIth century

XIIIth century

XVth century

Middle of the XVIIth century

Bibliographical References