Sunday, June 23, 2013

Philatelic Photograph: Abbaye aux Hommes - Caen, France

Interesting Places I've Photographed
Abbaye aux Hommes
(Men's Abbey)
Normandy, France
Topic: Philatelic Photographs

GPS: N49° 10.868; W000° 22.234

Quick Description: 

The Abbaye aux Hommes, a.k.a. Abbey of Saint-Etienne, is located near the present day center of the city of Caen in Normandy, France.

Long Description:

The Norman Romanesque style Abbaye aux Hommes (Men's Abbey) also known as the Abbey of Saint-Etienne (Saint Stephen) is a former Benedictine monastery in the city of Caen in the Normandy district of France.

Construction of the abbey, using local stone, began during the 11th century. In 1120, the ribbed vaulting of the church was constructed. The first such use of this architectural feature in France. In 1166, a early forerunner of Gothic architecture was added: the chevet, a semicircular east end of a church, featuring flying buttresses and rosette windows. Nine additional towers and spires were added in the 13th century.

During the French Revolution it ceased to function as a Benedictine abbey and functioned as a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey was the home of the Lycée Malherbe, a prestigious high school. During the World War II invasion of Normandy the church was used as a hospital and a refuge from bombings.

The origin of this abbey and the nearby companion Abbaye aux Dames (Ladies' Abbey) has a fascinating history. William I, the Duke of Normandy, later William the Conqueror, wished to marry Matilda of Flanders, the daughter of Count Baldwin V of Flanders, to enhance his claim to the throne of Normandy. A marriage was arranged in 1049, but at the Council of Rheims, Pope Leo IX issued an edit forbidding the marriage on the grounds of consanguinity as Matilda was a distant cousin of William I. Despite the edict, William and Matilda were married about the year 1050. In 1059, Lanfranc, the prior of Bec Abbey, negotiated and arrangement with Pope Nicholas II. The marriage would be granted the sanction of the Pope in Rome only after William and Matilda agreed to build two churches in Caen - the Abbaye aux Hommes and the nearby Abbaye aux Dames.

The stamp was issued by France on December 22, 1951 around the 900th anniversary of the marriage of William I of Normandy to Matilda of Flanders.

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