(canton de Caen, Calvados)
Around 1060 Duke William the Bastard built a castle on the rocky outcrop that overlooks Caen. Texts dating back to 1025 mention the town, and archaeological evidence suggests a community, if only of minor importance confined to local trade, had existed here since the 1st century A.D.
The building of the Abbaye-aux-Hommes and the Abbaye-aux-Dames on either side of the castle was to transform Caen within a generation into a town on a par with many of the great conurbations of north-west Europe. Until Normandy was re-absorbed into the French kingdom in 1204, the castle here in Caen played a key role in the policies of the Anglo-Norman kings.
Over the centuries, this wall has been repaired so many times that it would be pointless to try to trace the remains of the original building of around 1060-1080. On the other hand the line of the wall and the dry moat has hardly changed since the 11th century, except to the north to accommodate the building of the chemise wall around the keep. In the Middle Ages, the upper parts of the walls were crenellated, at least until the 17th century when, no longer having any military function, they fell into disrepair and the defensive works were abandoned.
The original northern entrance, protected by a tower gateway, disappeared around 1220 with the building of the chemise wall around the keep. Originally, St Peter's Gate to the south was no more than a small postern gate leading directly into the town. It became the main gate in the 13th century. To the east, the impressive Porte des Champs, or Fields Gate, was almost certainly built when the northern gate was taken down. With its drawbridge and barbican (built at the same time), once again the castle defences were upgraded.
Eleven rectangular and two round towers punctuate the castle wall. They have all been rebuilt a number of times. Queen Mathilda's Tower on the south-east corner of the castle, with its rib vaults on two floors, and still dominating the Vaugueux quarter of the town, its oldest parts date from the 13th century. Three rectangular towers straddle the walls, the upper floor of each connecting with the covered way as was the practice in the 12th century, but they have since been rebuilt. The other eight towers that flank the walls were built onto the outside wall, in the 13th and 14th centuries. Originally, all the towers were roofed. The widely spread out and irregular positioning of the towers, due to the original residential nature of the castle, reduced the efficiency of flanking fire along the walls.Bibliography
- Mémoires du château de Caen / textes réunis
par Jean-Yves Marin et Jean-Marie Levesque. - Caen : Musée de Normandie. Paris
: Skira-Seuil, 2000. - 176 p
- Il castello di Caen in Normandia : Nuovi rilievi alle strutture architettoniche, contributi per il restauro e la valorizzazione / a cura di Luigi Marino. - Firenze : Università di Firenze, Dipartimento di Storia dell'Architettura e Restauro delle Strutture Architettoniche. Ville de Caen, Musée de Normandie, 2000, 31 p
- Le Château de Caen / Michel de Boüard. - Caen : CRAM, 1979, 149 p