Playing hide and seek with Saint Peter (in Caen)

Last week I played hide and seek with Saint Peter (Saint-Pierre) in Caen.

Playing hide and seek with Saint Peter (in Caen)

The first time I visited Caen, in Normandy, 40 years ago to the day (pronounced kɒ̃, kɑː n – don’t miss this hilarious YouTube video). Caen was home to William the Conqueror, who got the better of arch-enemy Harold at the battle of Hastings in 1066 and invaded Britain.

I thought it was a rather pretty town, and that’s quite an achievement considering what it’s been through. Thirty percent of its area is said to have been destroyed, but that would have represented 68% of its buildings. Not to mention the 1,972 victims of the 1944 bombings. Some of the buildings miraculously survived [source, in French].

Saint Pierre de Caen
The bell tower of Saint-Pierre de Caen standing above the castle ramparts. Modern buildings from the 1950s stand alongside older buildings that have been more fortunate.

Terrible Destruction

In Normandy, from Ouistreham to Caen, and everywhere else, in Lisieux, in Le Havre, not forgetting Falaise, the destruction was terrible. One could argue – many do – about the need to destroy all that, about the precision of the strikes, about their effectiveness. It even seems that military installations were not affected despite the bombings.

Ouest France published images of the destruction of the city of Caen. The Nazi army shot this propaganda film in order to denounce the so-called misconduct of the Allies.

Saint Pierre de Caen
Saint-Pierre de Caen from the castle of William the Conqueror. This bell tower should ring a bell, no pun intended, with Brittany lovers!

Be that as it may, the church of Saint-Pierre de Caen is still standing. It is built of Caen stone, the same stone that was used to build the Houses of Parliament in London.

Saint Pierre de Caen
Westminster. This picture will not render the yellowish tint of the beautiful limestone of Caen.

The bell tower of Saint-Pierre de Caen was built in the 15th century as an addition. Many churches were modelled after it. Starting with the famous Kreisker in Saint-Pol-de-Léon (where I’m from, which makes me think that it’s probably one of the only places I don’t have any photos of).

The Kreisker in Saint-Pol-de-Léon – photo by Pierre Doyen to whose Flickr account you should pay a visit.

Hide-and-seek with Saint Peter in Caen

I had to walk for a while in this castle, a rather barren expanse of land. Its enclosure is nevertheless one of the largest in Europe. It houses a modern museum of Art.

Here and there, old houses remain. The city survived the war better than Coventry, Brest or Le Havre.

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