Abbaye-aux-Dames

The Abbaye aux Dames is a former abbey in Caen, Normandy, northern France, now home to the Conseil Régional de Basse Normandie (Regional Council of Low Normandy). It includes the church now known as the Église de la Sainte Trinité.

The abbey was founded in the late 11th century by William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda as the Abbaye aux Dames (“Abbey of Women”), together with Abbaye aux Hommes (“Abbey of Men”), now church of Saint Etienne. The works began in1062, starting from the rear and finished in 1130. Matilda, who died in 1083, was buried in the choir under a slab of black marble. The original spires were destroyed in the Hundred Years’ War and replaced by less striking balustrades in the early 18th century. The vault was demolished and rebuilt in 1865. The nuns were chased from the premises during the French Revolutionand returned in 1820. The church was last restored between 1990 and 1993. The façade has two large towers on the sides, each with doors leading to the aisles. The pediment of the central bay echoes the nave roof. The tympanum of the central portal depicts the Trinity and the four apocalyptic beasts, symbols of the Four Evangelists. The nave is flanked by pointed arches surmounted by a gallery (triforium) which supports the groin vault, the first of this type built in Normandy (1130). The transept, in the centre of the church, houses the altar. The northern transept is in Romanesque style, opening over a small apse (the chapel of the Holy Sacrament) which houses the tabernacle. The southern transept is characterised by Gothic columns integrated within the Romanesque decoration. The choir ends with an apse decorated by four columns and a gallery with fantastic figures. Also present is a crypt in honour of Saint Nicholas.

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