(canton de Caen, Calvados)
Abbey Church of the Trinity
The Church of La Trinité in Caen is a complex building. Almost entirely Romanesque save the chapter house and the upper section of the three towers, it was clearly built in many stages over the period 1060 to 1130. Although it has come in for a lot of restoration down the centuries, the front is reminiscent of the Abbaye-aux-Hommes in Caen. Flanking the nave's west gable are two square towers, rising up four levels, with the first three strengthened by angle buttresses.
The front of the nave was completely restored during the 19th century and the main door was utterly spoilt by the addition of a monumental sculptured tympanum totally out of keeping with the traditions of Romanesque art. The nave is very long, with nine bays from the front towers to the transept. On the whole it has kept its mid-12th century appearance. At the far end of the church is a long, narrow chancel. It has two straight bays, with high, blind walls, and a shallow apse. The decoration is very austere.
At the entrance to the chancel, a black marble slab is all that remains of Queen Matilda's tomb. It bears an epitaph in Latin with a conventional account of her high birth, her ancestors' virtues, and her own generosity and piety.
One of the abbey's most interesting features is the crypt, there is nothing else quite like it to be found in the abbey churches of Normandy. It was accessed by a narrow, right-angle staircase on either side of the chancel. This is one of the oldest parts of La Trinité and also the most authentic. It has sixteen columns in four perfectly regular rows in a very narrow rectangular space, giving the impression of a petrified forest. The church at Ouistreham, which was an abbey dependency with many similar external decorative features, makes an interesting visit to follow the Abbey Church of the Trinity in Caen.Bibliography
- Baylé, Maylis. - Caen : abbatiale de la Trinité (Abbaye-aux-Dames).
- In : L'Architecture romane en Normandie, Condé-sur-Noireau : Editions Charles
Corlet. Caen. Presse de l'Université de Caen, 1997, T. 1, p. 50-55.
- Musset, Lucien. - La Trinité. - In : Normandie romane, la Basse-Normandie. - La Pierre-Qui-Vire : Zodiaque, 1975.
- Baylé, Maylis. - La Trinité de Caen, sa place dans l'histoire de l'architecture et du décor romans. - Genêve : Droz, 1979, 235 p.