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Caen ( ) is a commune in north-western Francemarker. It is the prefecture of the Calvadosmarker department and the capital of the Basse-Normandiemarker region. It is located inland from the English Channelmarker.

Caen is known for its historical buildings built during the reign of William the Conqueror, who was buried here, and for the Battle for Caenmarker—heavy fighting that took place in and around Caen during the Battle of Normandymarker in 1944, destroying much of the town.

At 2 hours north-west of Paris, and connected to the south of England by the ferry line-Caen (Ouistrehammarker)-Portsmouthmarker, Caen is located in the centre of its northern region, over which it exercises its political power, economic and cultural.

City of William the Conqueror, the city has inherited a magnificent heritage, it has tended over the centuries until the Second World War, where it was also a key site of the Battle of Normandy. The city has preserved the memory by building a memorial for peace.

Located a few miles from the coast, the landing beaches, the bustling resort of Deauvillemarker and Cabourgmarker, Norman Switzerland or Pays d'auge (often considered the archetype of Normandy), Caen offers all possible services.

Populated intramural 113 249 inhabitants (population 2006), and the leader of an urban area of 401 741 inhabitants, Caen is the first city of Lower Normandy. It is also the second largest municipality (after Le Havremarker) and the third largest city (after Rouen and Le Havre) of Normandy. The metropolitan area of Caen, in turn, is the second of Normandy after that of Rouen, and occupies the 21st rank nationally.



Current arms :

« Gules, a single-towered open castle Or, windowed and masoned sable.

Under the Ancien Régime : Per fess, gules and azure, 3 fleurs de lys Or.

During the Premier Empire, Gules, a single-towered castle Or, a chief of Good Imperial Cities (gules, 3 bees Or).

File:Blason ville fr Caen ancien.svg|
Arms in effect under Ancien Régime.

File:Blason Caen 1809.svg|
Arms requested from Napoléon in 1809 which were refused.

File:Blason ville fr Caen (Calvados) Empire (Orn ext).svg|
Arms in effect under the Premier Empire.

File:Blason ville fr Caen (Calvados) (Orn ext).svg|
Arms in effect today, reverting to the original arms of the XIIIth century.


Today, Caen has no motto. But it used to have one, which did not survive the French Revolution (hence the archaic spelling) :

« Un Dieu, un Roy.
Une Foy, une Loy.

(One God, one King. One Faith, one Law.)


Caen's Home port code is CN


In 1346 King Edward III of England led his army against the city hoping to loot it. On 26 July 1346 his troops stormed the city and sacked it, killing 3,000 of its citizens and burning much of the merchants' quarter. During the attack English officials searched its archives and found a copy of the 1339 Franco-Norman plot to invade England, devised by Philip VI of France and Normandy. This was subsequently used as propaganda to justify the supplying and financing of the conflict and its continuation. Only the castle of Caen held out, despite attempts to besiege it. A few days later the English left, marching to the east and on to their victory at the Battle of Crécy.

World War II

During the Battle of Normandymarker in World War II, Caen was liberatedmarker in early July, a month after the Normandy landings, particularly those by British I Corps on 6 June 1944. Britishmarker and Canadianmarker troops had intended to capture the town on D-Day. However they were held up north of the city until 9 July, when an intense bombing campaign during Operation Charnwoodmarker destroyed much of the city but allowed the Allies to seize its western quarters, a month later than Montgomery's original plan. During the battle, many of the town's inhabitants sought refuge in the Abbaye aux Hommes (Men's Abbey), built by William the Conqueror some 800 years before.


Post-WWII work included the reconstruction of complete districts of the city and the university campus. It took 14 years (1948-1962) and led to the current urbanization of Caen. Having lost many of its historic quarters and its university campus in the war, the city doesn't possess what some might call the 'feel' of a traditional Normandy town such as Honfleurmarker, Rouenmarker, Cabourgmarker, Deauvillemarker and Bayeuxmarker.

The Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit filmed the D-Day offensive and Orne breakout several weeks later, then returned several months later to document the town's recovery efforts. The resulting film You Can't Kill a City is preserved in the National Archives of Canada.


File:Escoville Angle.jpg|Hôtel d'Escoville, sixteenth century, CaenFile:PlanCaenFortification.jpg|Anonymous pen-and-ink bird's-eye view of the fortifications of Caen (Bibliotheque Nationalemarker, Paris)File:Chateau_Caen.jpg|South Wall of the Castle, a huge fortress in the centre of the cityFile:Caen Hôtel de Ville.JPG|Town Hall of CaenFile:Gare de Caen.jpg|Caen railway stationFile:Tramway de Caen Station.jpg|Caen's 'tramway' is in fact a modern guided-bus systemFile:Normandie Calvados Caen6 tango7174.jpg|Saint-Étienne-le-Vieux Church


Year 1070 of the Parker manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to Caen as "Kadum" . Despite a lack of sources as to the origin of the settlements, the name Caen would seem to be of Gaulish origin, from the words catu-, referring to military activities and magos, field, hence meaning "manoeuvre field" or "battlefield".


Caen is in an area of high humidity. The Orne Rivermarker flows through the city, as well as small rivers known as les Odons, most of which have been buried under the city to improve urban hygiene.

Caen is from the Channelmarker. A canal (Canal de Caen à la Mermarker) parallel to the Orne was built during the reign of Napoleon III to link the city to the sea at all times. The canal reaches the English Channelmarker at Ouistrehammarker. A lock keeps the tide out of the canal and lets large ships navigate up the canal to Caen's freshwater harbours.

Main sights


The castle, Château de Caenmarker, built circa 1060 by William the Conqueror, who successfully conquered England in 1066, is one of the largest medieval fortresses of Western Europe. It remained an essential feature of Norman strategy and policy. At Christmas 1182 a royal court celebration for Christmas in the aula of Caen Castle brought together Henry II and his sons, Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland, receiving more than a thousand knights. Caen Castle, along with all of Normandy, was handed over to the French Crown in 1204. The castle saw several engagements during the Hundred Years' War (1346, 1417, 1450) and was in use as a barracks as late as World War II. Today, the castle serves as a museum that houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen (Museum of Fine Arts of Caen) and Musée de Normandie (Museum of Normandy) along with many periodical exhibitions about arts and history . (See Timeline of Caen Castle)


In repentance for marrying his cousin Mathilda of Flanders, William ordered two abbeys to be built on the Pope's encouragement:



The coat of arms of Caen.

Recent Mayors of Caen have included:

In 1952, the small commune of Venoixmarker became part of Caen.

In 1990, the agglomeration of Caen was organized into a district, transformed in 2002 into a Communauté d'agglomération (Grand Caen (Greater Caen), renamed Caen la Mer in 2004), gathers 29 towns and villages, including Villons-les-Buissonsmarker, Lions-sur-mer, Hermanville-sur-mermarker, which joined the Communauté d'agglomération in 2004. The population of the "communauté d'agglomération" is around 220000 inhabitants.

In the former administrative organisation, Caen was a part of 9 cantons, of which it is the chief town. These cantons contain a total of 13 towns. Caen gives its name to a 10th canton, of which it is not part.


Caen has a recently built, controversial guided bus system—built by Bombardier Transportation and modelled on its Guided Light Transit technology—and a very efficient network of city buses, operated under the name Twisto. Faced with the residents' anger against the project, the municipality had to pursue the project with only 23% of the population in favour of the new form of transport—residents were in favour of trams rather than buses. The road layout of the city centre was deeply transformed and the formerly traffic-jam-free centre's problems are still unresolved. The city is also connected to the rest of the Calvados département by the Bus Verts du Calvados bus network.

Caen - Carpiquet Airportmarker is the biggest airport in Lower-Normandy considering the number of passengers that it serves every year, and offers commuting possibilities to the whole of Europe. Most flights are operated by Brit Air and Chalair Aviation and the French national airline Air France operates three daily flights to the French city of Lyonmarker, while in the summer there are many charter flights to Spainmarker, the United Kingdommarker, Germanymarker, Tunisiamarker, Moroccomarker and Algeriamarker.

Caen is served by the small port of Ouistrehammarker, lying at the mouth of the Caen Canalmarker where it meets the English Channelmarker. A ferry service operates between Portsmouthmarker, Englandmarker and Caen/Ouistreham running both standard roll-on-roll-off car ferries and supercat fast ferries, with the latter making crossing from March to November. The ferry terminal is from Caen with a daytime shuttle bus service for foot passengers.

Caen is connected to the rest of France by motorways to Parismarker (A13), Brittany (A84) and soon to Le Mansmarker (A88-A28). The A13 is a toll road while the A84 is a toll-free motorway. The city is encircled by the N814 ring-road that was completed in the late 1990s. The N13 connects Caen to Cherbourgmarker and to Parismarker. A section of the former N13 (Caen-Paris) is now D613 (in Calvados) following road renumbering. The N814 ring-road includes an impressive viaduct called the Viaduc de Calix that goes over the canal and River Ornemarker. The canal links the city to the sea to permit cargo ships and ferries to dock in the port of Caenmarker. Ferries which have docked include the Quiberon and the Duc de Normandie.

Although a fraction of what it used to be remains, Caen once boasted an extensive rail and tram network. From 1895 until 1936 the Compagnie des Tramways Electriques de Caen (Electrical Tramway Company of Caen) operated all around the city. Caen also had several main and branch railway lines linking Caen railway stationmarker to all parts of Normandy with lines to Parismarker, Viremarker, Flersmarker, Cabourgmarker, Houlgatemarker, Deauvillemarker, Saint-Lômarker, Bayeuxmarker and Cherbourgmarker. Now only the electrified line of Paris-Cherbourg, Caen-Le Mansmarker and Caen-Rennesmarker subsist with minimal services.


  • The University of Caen, Université de Caenmarker, has around 25 000 students in three different campuses, all linked by a tramway. The University is divided into 11 colleges, called UFR (Unité fondamentale de Recherche), 6 institutes, 1 Engineering School, 2 IUP and five local campus. The University is one of the oldest in France, having been founded by Henry VI, King of England in 1432.




Great rich city, spacious, beautiful rivers, its meadows, its seaport full of ships laden with goods, it is adorned with so many churches, houses and inhabitants, it is hardly that she recognizes less than Paris.GUILLAUME LE BRETON. Philippide, 1. VIII.

This country is beautiful, and Caen's most beautiful city, the more attractive, the merrier, the better situated, the most beautiful streets, the most beautiful buildings, the most beautiful churches, meadows, walking, and finally the source All of our wits.MME DE SÉVIGNÉ

Caen today deserves some praise to him once so liberally granted. In its churches, its hotels, for the decoration of some of its houses, it is actually a vast museum that provides the observer subjects of study most interesting and varied.EUGÈNE ROBILLARD DE BEAUREPAIRE, 1883

Famous Caennais

Caen was the birthplace of:

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Caen is twinned with:
Caen has been twinned with Alexandria, Virginiamarker, USA since 1991. The sister city relationship sees delegations visiting between the two cities on a regular basis. Exchanges of students have been common. Musicians and choirs from the two cities have also made very successful exchange visits. The Toussaint/Halloween period is a time of year when a delegation from Caen will often visit Alexandria.

See also


External links

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