Caen is known for its historical buildings built during the reign of William the Conqueror, who was buried there, and for the Battle for Caen—heavy fighting that took place in and around Caen during the Battle of Normandy in 1944, destroying much of the city.
Two hours north-west of Paris, and connected to the south of England by the Caen-(Ouistreham)-Portsmouth ferry route, Caen is located in the centre of its northern region, over which it is a centre of political, economic and cultural power.
As the city of William the Conqueror, the city has a long and complex history. In the Second World War, it was a key site of the Battle of Normandy, and suffered considerable destruction. The city has preserved the memory by erecting a memorial for peace.
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ("Men's Abbey"), is a former monastery in the French city of Caen, Normandy. Dedicated to Saint Stephen ("Saint Étienne"), it is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ("Ladies' Abbey"), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine. Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne.
Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic. The original Romanesqueapse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.