This is the final post in my advent calendar. Thank you to everyone who has read them along the way, commented, shared and most importantly enjoyed them. Have a great Christmas and holiday season
The Abbaye-aux-Hommes was founded by William the Conqueror. It was a Benedictine abbey and dedicated to Saint Steven. The church of Saint-Etienne was consecrated in 1077. The majority dates to the 11th century but the choir was redesigned in the 13th century to reflect the then contemporary gothic style. The majority of the church is built in the romanesque style. The monastic buildings were erected in the 11th century but they were destroyed in the first war of religion (1562-63) the first of the wars fought between the Roman Catholics and the Huguenots. They were rebuilt in the 18th century.
The church is also the burial place of William the Conqueror. His marble tomb can be seen in the photo above.
William married Matilda of Flanders in 1053 despite the fact that the Pope had banned the marriage due to consanguinity, they were distant cousins. They fought the Papal ban for nearly a decade and when it was finally lifted both of them built abbeys in Caen as a sign of gratitude. Matilda’s abbey was the Abbaye-aux-Dames which was the subject of yesterday’s post. Matilda is also buried in the abbey she founded.
The French Revolution forced the closure of the monastery and the monks were removed. In 1802 the abbey church becme the parish church and in 1804 the monastic buildings became a boy’s school.
In WWII in 1944 the high school provided refuge for the residents of Caen during bombing and survived intact. The monastic buildings are now home to the local council.
The abbaye was founded roughly in 1060 by Matilda of Flanders the wife of William the Conqueror. It was consecrated in 1066 and was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. When Matilda died in 1083 she was buried in the abbaye and her tomb of black marble can still be seen today.
Matilda married William of Normandy in 1053 despite the fact that the Pope had banned the marriage due to consanguinity, they were distant cousins. They fought the Papal ban for nearly a decade and when it was finally lifted both of them built abbeys in Caen as a sign of gratitude. William’s abbey was the Abbaye-aux-Hommes which will be the subject of tomorrow’s post. William is also buried in the abbey he founded.
In the late 11th century William II of England granted the abbaye the Priory of Horestead in England, they held it until 1414 when the alien properties in England were dissolved.
Until the French Revolution the abbaye sheltered young girls of the Norman aristocracy. In return the families gave a dowry to the abbaey.
The church exemplifies the most spectacular forms of Norman romanesque architecture. The extension to the chancel was added in the beginning of the 12th century. and the crypt was probably an 11th century addition.
The Abbaye buildings deteriorated significantly over the centuries many of the convent buildings were reconstructed at the beginning of the 18th century at the order the Abbess Madame de Froulay de Tesse. The work was done by Benedictine Architect Dom Guillaume de Tremblaye, it took nearly a century and is still incomplete in places.
The arrival of the French Revolution brought about the end of the abbaye. The convent was closed and the property sold off. The church was used as a forage warehouse and the convent became the barracks, this is the reason for the lack of wood and decoration.
In 1823 the buildings became the Hotel Dieu and from 1908 they were a hospice. The last of the St Louis hospice nuns left in 1984 and the buildings became the headquarters of the Regional council. The buildings were then restored again and cleaned extensively in the 1990s.
This is my second easy to evil medieval quiz. To have a shot at the first click here.
The way this quiz works.
It’s pretty simple. You see the question with a photo underneath and underneath the photo, which might be some kind of clue, you’ll find the answer. There’s twenty five questions so keep track of how many you get right and how many you get wrong and see how you do at the end. There’s also a poll at the end so you can see how you compare to everyone else if you’re interested.
As the title suggests, it starts off easy and gets much more complicated. There are five sections: Easy, Medium, Hard, Difficult and Evil.
What is name of the Duke who became King of England in 1066.
Answer: William I. Other acceptable answers include William the Conqueror and William the Bastard.
Photo: The Abbey of Sainte-Etienne in Caen where he is buried.
Answer: William Marshal the Younger. You get the point if you just said William Marshal.
Photo: What is probably the younger Marshal’s effigy in the Temple Church in London.
9. What area of what is now London was known in the medieval period for its brothels, and was the site of the Bishop of Winchester’s London palace who also licensed the brothels. The prostitutes are said to have been called Winchester’s Geese.
Photo: The remains of Winchester Palace.
10. Who wrote the History of the Kings of Britain in 1136?
Answer: Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Photo: Monmouth Castle.
11. Who purportedly said. (Bonus point for who they are speaking about.)
“My Lords, here you see the countess whom I have brought into your presence. She is your lady by birth, the daughter of the earl who graciously, in his generosity, enfieffed you all, once he had conquered the land. She stays behind here with you as a pregnant woman. Until such time as God brings me back here, I ask you all to give her unreservedly the protection she deserves by birthright, for she is your lady, as we all know; I have no claim to anything save through her”.
Answer: William Marshal, he was saying it about his wife Isabel de Clare. Remember you get the bonus point if you got Isabel de Clare too.
I use “purportedly” in the question because although it is recorded in his relatively contemporary biography we have no proof he actually said it, for more about the complexities of the History of William Marshal click here
The quote is from History of William Marshal Volume II. pgs 177-179. ISBN: 0905474457
Photo: Kilkenny Castle in Ireland, where the statement was purportedly said.
12. What are the dates of the Period of Anarchy where the Anglo Saxon Chronicle said “that Christ slept, and his saints.”
Photo: the non contemporary tomb of Empress Matilda, one of the participants.
13. What is the name of the Earl of Leicester who married King Henry III’s sister?
Answer: Simon de Montford.
Photo: Statue of Simon de Montford, non contemporary, on the clock tower in Leicester.
14. What was the name of William the Conqueror’s brother who possibly commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry?
Answer: Bishop Odo, you can have the point if you just said Odo.
Photo: Ships sailing to England in the Bayeux Tapestry.
15. What is the name of the mistress of John of Gaunt whom he later married?
Answer: William d’Albini the Earl of Arundel you get the point if you just said William d’Albini.
Photo: Castle Rising.
18. Who wrote:
“I have your picture in my room; I never pass it without stopping to look at it; and yet when you are present with me I scarce ever cast my eyes on it. If a picture, which is but a mute representation of an object, can give such pleasure, what cannot letters inspire? They have souls; they can speak; they have in them all that force which expresses the transports of the heart; they have all the fire of our passions, they can raise them as much as if the persons themselves were present; they have all the tenderness and the delicacy of speech, and sometimes even a boldness of expression beyond it.”
20. When was the Charter of the Forest first issued separately from the Magna Carta? bonus point for who issued it.
Answer: 1217, it was issued by Henry III under the seal of his regent William Marshal. If you got either Marshal or Henry III you get the bonus point. If you got both, well done you’re very smart, but no extra points.
Photo: Lincoln Castle from inside the walls which holds a copy of the 1217 Charter of the Forest.
21. What is the name of the cavern under Pembroke Castle and what stone is composed of?
Answer: Wogan’s Cavern and limestone. you need both to get the point.
Photo: The cavern.
22. Where is this description from the Domesday Book describing?
“King Edward had 51 Burgesses paying rent and 212 others over whom he had sake and soke, and three mills rendering 40s. Now there are 19 Burgesses paying rent. Of [the houses of] the 32 others who were [there] 11 are waste in the city ditch and the archbishop has 7 of the them.”
Answer: Canterbury. The quote is from the page five of the Penguin Classics edition of the Domesday Book.
Photo: facsimile of the Domesday book from the National Archives.
23. What is the name of the chapel in Richmond castle and what century does it date to and what type of vaulting is the roof?
Answer: St Nicholas’ chapel, 11th century and barrel vaulting. You need all three for the point.
Photo: The chapel.
24. What was the amount of money paid to Prince Louis of France to leave England in 1217?
Answer: 10 000 marks
Photo: The effigy of William Marshal in the Temple Church. He was regent at the time the money was paid.
Who created the Lindisfarne Gospels and when did they die?
Answer: Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne and 712.
Photo: Lindisfarne Abbey.
So that’s it. How did you do?
1-5: Well you’ve got some basics down pat. Good start.
6-10: You know more than basics, well on your way.
11-15: Good work, beginning to build a wealth of obscure facts.
16-20: Impressive. You know you stuff.
21-25: Incredible effort. You may know more about this period than is sensible
26-27 remember the three bonus points: Speechless. Incredible. You definitely know more than you need to about this specific period and area.
28: If you got them all… Sure you didn’t write the quiz?
Now if you feel like it put your results in the poll below.
This is the final castle on this advent calendar. I hope everyone has enjoyed the collection of castles and has a wonderful holiday season and new years.
Now please enjoy Foix.
Foix, the third and final French castle, sits impressively perched on a massive lump of carboniferous limestone looking out toward the Pyrenees. It was the home of the Counts of Foix. The first mention of the castle is in the early 11th century when it featured in the testament of the Count of Carcassonne. The original castle though was probably built at the end of the 10th century possibly on the site of an early older building of some description. The original castle would have just been one square tower with a wall. Then later in the 11th century a second square tower was added along with a building connecting the two towers. The square tower with the roof you can see today was probably built on the foundations of the original tower.
The castle was caught up in the Albigensian Crusade at the beginning of the 13th century. Foix was right in Cathar country and after several sieges it was occupied by the crusaders for a number of years. However the counts did survive the crusades largely intact, though by the end they were certainly distancing themselves from the Cathars.
By the mid 14th century the Counts of Foix were not using the castle as their principal residence. Though Gaston Febus ,the Count of Foix, did use the castle as a prison for a number of well born lords that he captured in 1362.
The final tower of the castle was constructed in the first half of the 15th century. It’s the round tower that stands at the end. It was built primarily to use as a residence, which is evidenced by the fact that the door is on the ground floor. The round tower is 32m high and 4m thick and it was built out of sandstone rather than local limestone to give it a more sumptuous appearance.
From the end of the 15th century the castle fell into disuse and was almost razed by the government, a fate which many castles met because they were too expensive to maintain. Thankfully in this case the order was never carried out. Foix was home to a garrison from the mid 15th century and this use continued until the mid 17th century when it mainly became used as a prison. At times the prison held more than 200 people, but it was finally closed at the end of the 19th century. By the mid 20th century the castle had been restored to its medieval origins and was open for the public.
Caen is William the Conqueror’s castle. It dates to c.1060 and would have been a wood and earth construction originally, though the walls were rapidly built in stone. It remains one of the largest medieval enclosures in Europe.
Inside the huge enclosing walls would have stood a ducal palace , some private houses and a parish church. It was Henry I of England who most likely built the towers on the walls in the early 12th century, though they were added to by the French in the 13th century.
In the 11th century the castle would have been entered the castle from the Northside, using a drawbridge over the defensive ditch, which never had water in it. The entrance would have been a tower gate, similar to that which you can see in Richmond castle in England. Additionally in the 12th century there would have been an imposing keep within the walls. Built in c. 1120 by Henry I of England it is believed to have stood at nearly 30 meters high. Sadly it was largely lost during the French revolution.
One of the most fascinating survivals from the early medieval period within the castle walls is the 12th century exchequer hall. It was built again by Henry I. In the 12th century the hall would have most likely had two stories, with the ground floor being used for kitchens and the like and the upper floor being used as the ceremonial space. The building was heavily restored in the 1960s, but some Norman elements do remain.
Normandy fell to the French in 1204 and Phillip II of France added a curtain wall to Henry I’s keep along with four round towers and a dry moat. He also constructed the massive Porte des Champs gate as a replacement for the Norman tower gate in the castle’s ramparts as well as adding two new towers to the ramparts.
The English held Caen during the 15th century hundred years war and they refortified much of the ramparts adding a barbican to one of the gates. However by the end of the conflict gunpowder was beginning to render the still impressive walls useless and despite attempts to shore them up against canon fire the use of the castle began to diminish. By the French Revolution only one barracks building housing a regiment of disabled soldiers remained. Much demolition of the castle occurred during the French Revolution in retaliation for the imprisonment there of two MPs. While they didn’t destroy the Norman keep completely it was significantly damaged and it was ultimately dynamited to make way for a gunpowder store in the 19th century. By the end of the 19th century Caen castle was home to the Lefebvre barracks and it was occupied by the Germans in WWII which led to further destruction as it was also bombed. The castle was opened to the public after WWII and now houses the Museum of Normandy and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Angers is the first French castle on this list, it was the home of the Dukes of Anjou who went on to become the Plantagenet dynasty of England.
Angers sits on a rocky promontory which overlooks the River Maine, and there has been some sort of occupation of this site since Neolithic times. The first structure on this site dates to the 9th century when a lookout tower was established by the Counts of Anjou to help to counter the threat of the Normans. There was a castle here from the tenth to the twelfth centuries and it was the home of the Counts of Anjou, but almost nothing remains. The only remains of this original palace are the walls of the grand hall, the steam room and the chapel of St Lud.
The immense castle you see today dates to the 14th century and was built by Blanche of Castile, a granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, in her role as regent for her young son Louis the IX, who was later canonised as Saint Louis.
The ramparts of the original castle, which largely still stand today, measure approximately half a kilometre in length and boast 17 shale and limestone towers. The castle was very much built as a way to repel invading troops. The walls were changed in the late 16th century with the towers being shorted drastically and pepper pot roofs added to the top. This was mainly to deal with changes in military technology, especially canons.
The Dukes of Anjou used the castle as a place for art and entertainment in the 14th and 15th centuries, in fact the moat you can see today was never intended to hold water and in the 1400s Rene of Anjou used the moat to house his menagerie. The moat, which was constructed in c.1232, has been used for grazing and a vegetable garden as well. It became very overgrown and in 1912 the Mayor of Anjou had it turned into flower beds.
Apart from being a spectacular castle in its own right, Angers also houses the 14th century apocalypse tapestry. It was commissioned in 1375 by Louis I of Anjou and illustrates the book of revelations of St. John, the final book of the old testament. It originally measured roughly 140m in length and 100 m are preserved and are now on display inside the castle.
Angers also served as a departmental prison in the 1800s and was used as a barracks until the mid 20th century. When the army left the castle, the apocalypse tapestry was returned from the cathedral and Angers was opened to the public.
So this is the last one. It’s been fun. I hope these quotes have been enjoyed. I’ve had fun ransacking my books and lots of other sources.
I thought I’d finish with one more William Marshal quote. This is the description an incident during the siege of the castle of Milli in 1197 under Richard I when the almost fifty-three year old Marshal ran up a scaling ladder in full armour.
“At this point many of those involved in the attack began to retreat, for they were much dismayed and in fear. Left behind on one of the ladders was Sir Guy de la Bruyere, a knight from Flanders who did his all, with intense vigour, to perform great deeds. Those defending the town had caught him with their spiked pikes between his chin and his chest, so overpowering him that he could in no way help himself with either hand. The Marshal, fully armed, was on the moat, and he was filled with pity and anger about the plight of that knight, whom he saw in such torment, so, fully armed as he was, he jumped down into the bottom of the ditch and climbed, I assure you, sword in hand up the other side, and kept his footing until he reached the ladder on which the knight was held by those who sought to kill him. He dealt such blows with his sword as to fully repay each of them individually for the harm they had done to the knight. He dealt so many blows right and left with the sword that he held in his right hand that those inside fell back and left him the sole occupant of the battlements. Those men, who had no taste for the games he played, left him in sole charge of the field as they all went on their way. The Marshal did not care who witnessed it. And when the King saw him leap forward to climb the wall and mount an attack, he was very angry and wanted to do likewise, without delay, but the high ranking men present advised against this course and prevented it. Once the Marshal had entered the castle by force, our men were so filled with glee that they all shouted as one man: ‘The castle is taken, let’s help him!’ Those in the castle took fright as out men leapt onto the battlements. This did not appear to be a laughing matter to Sir William de Monceaux, the constable of the castle. He would not stand still anywhere, but ran straight at the Marshal with the intention of doing all within his power to do him harm and injury, but he was unable to do so, the Marshal proving too much for him now that he had freed himself from the others as a result of the blows he had dealt them, blows which had cost him so much effort that he was somewhat out of breath. The constable came at him with his sword. The Marshal dealt such a blow at him that he cut right through his hauberk and piercing his flesh so that all he could do was come to a halt. He fell down quite unconscious, battered and stunned by the blow he received from the Marshal, and he stayed motionless on the ground. The Marshal, now weary, and who had done more than enough, sat on him to hold him firm.”
From History of William Marshal Volume II. pgs 61-63. ISBN: 0905474457