What makes Bayeux world famous?
The great epic of William the Conqueror is illustrated in the Tapestry of Queen Mathilde. This tapestry was embroidered in coloured wool on a piece of linen, 70m long, and was commissioned by Odon, the Bishop of Bayeux and William’s half-brother, to hang in the nave of the Cathedral. It describes the circumstances and the progress of the William’s conquest of England. There is an impressive illustration of the battle of Hastings (1066) which led to William being crowned King of England. This tapestry gives many details in a naive and colourful manner about the life during the 11th century.
Liberation:. Bayeux was the first French town to be liberated in June 1944, and this opened the way to Europe’s liberation by the Allied Forces. Charles de Gaulle walked along the streets acclaimed by a jubilant crowd.
Bayeux is also an architectural jewel, miraculously unscathed after the bombings and battles in 1944. Walking through the narrow alleys in the old city, it is an absolute delight to discover:
. The Cathedral, visible from any road leading to Bayeux. It was consecrated in the presence of William and his wife Mathilde (1077). From this period still remain the two East towers and the crypt. Today it is a blend of outstanding Romanesque and Gothic styles, the copper dome of the central tower having been reroofed in the 19th century.
. Old timber-framed houses, some of them decorated with wooden sculptures,and manor houses (15th century) with towers housing outside staircases.
. Many large religious buildings and sumptuous private houses where grace and strict elegance of the 18th century blend together
Bayeux is also famous for its outstanding lace and fine porcelains over the last 2 centuries
The 5 D-Day Landing Beaches, Pegasus Bridge, the artificial harbour at Arromanches, Pointe du Hoc, Sainte-Mère-Eglise, are all worth a visit as historical places.
Many museums recall the various battles of the region, namely the Musee Memorial de la Bataille de Nortmandie at Bayeux, and the Peace Memorial at Caen.
The Normandy American Cemetery and its Memorial are situated on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach. Buried there are 9387 American soldiers who gave their lives for Freedom. 307 of them remain unknown.
The British Military Cemetery at Bayeux has 4648 graves, some of them unidentified. Opposite, there is a Memorial to those who died in battle, and who did not receive burial places.
At the German Military Cemetery at La Cambe there are graves of 21500 German soldiers who fell in battle.
Bayeux lies in a unique position. At the heart of the bocage, it is also close to the seaside and rich arable plains. The surrounding countryside provides numerous walks along the beaches and the narrow country roads, which are so enchanting in the sunshine at the end of the afternoon. In any village one can find beautiful churches, fortified farms,and country estates.
There are beautiful châteaux and churches nearby: the château de Balleroy built by F.Mansart in 1631 and its Balloon Museum; the châteaux de Fontaine-Henry(15th-16th century); Creully(11th century); Colombières(14th century); the château de Brécy with its hanging gardens; the abbey churches of Cerisy-la-Forêt(11th century) and Mondaye(18th century).
Visiting Honfleur on foot is delightful: the old harbour, narrow streets, the church of Sainte-Catherine, the salt loft. The exceptional quality of light above the Seine estuary has been immortalised by the painter E.Boudin and many others such as Borrington, Jongkind, Monet, and Braque, Dufy.
The Mont-Saint-Michel, situated on a rocky outcrop in the middle of a bay, is a unique marvel listed in the UNESCO World Heritage. The Abbey (11th/16th century) includes the church, superb Gothic buildings (the “Merveille”), and a cloister. Walking all around the city walls or up the Grande-Rue (main street of Mont St. Michel), looking at the bay, its quick sands and its changing colours is an unforgettable experience.
The Omaha Beach Golf Club has 2 superb 18-holes courses, different from one to the other, overlooking the English Channel and the charming fishing harbour of Port-en-Bessin.