Normandy — History and Culture
Normandy has an enviable history, from its invasion by Romans and obligatory squabbling with the English through to the infamous D-Day beach landings. It has a diverse people and culture as a result, and is a real eye-opener for first-time visitors, and also for returning visitors used to Paris or the French Riviera, for instance.
Two of the most intriguing historical facets of Normandy history are William of Normandy’s conquest of England, as noted in the impressive Bayeux Tapestry, and the D-Day landings and subsequent Battle of Normandy in WWII.
The region was a great dukedom in the Middle Ages and rivaled the Burgundy region for prestige. The Dukes of Normandy were even on par with the French kings, particularly so after William of Normandy’s exploits, with the duke dubbed William the Conqueror after he acquired the noble status of King of England.
The event is embroidered in time on the magnificent Bayeux Tapestry; an impossibly long work of art which is on show in the ancient town of Bayeux. The 20-inch high wool-on-linen tapestry resides in the stunning 18th century Center Guillaume le Conquerant and records the events of the 1066 Battle of Hastings. It is replete with details including the passing of Halley’s Comet.
The south of England has much the same landscape as Normandy, both in the look of the land and the characteristics of the architecture. However, Allied soldiers weren’t looking at trees or buildings during the 1944 D-Day landings of WWII on Operation Overlord. Many American visitors visit these beaches today (around the town of Arromanches-les-Bains), as well as the cemeteries, the Arromanches Museum, and the Pegasus Bridge.
Normandy still plays host to many monuments and historic buildings despite the later destruction wrought by Allied bombing of Nazi-occupied Normandy. Major towns have fine Gothic cathedrals, and that of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Rouen in particular is splendid. Caen is also noteworthy for its historic structures including Caen Castle (Château de Caen), and its many museums.