Praise for Matilda’s Legacy for Caen

caen ladies chapelL’Abbaye-aux-Dames (aka Ladies’ Abbey and Abbey of Sainte-Trinité / Holy Trinity) sits in the parish of St. Giles in Caen, Normandy was founded by Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror.  The Abbey  is a former monastery for women and Benedictine nuns, and is the counterpart to the Men’s abbey L’Abbaye-aux-Hommes /Abbey of Saint-Étienne.

  • The Abbey was consecrated on 18th June 1066, just a few months before William’s  conquest of England.
  • Matilda died in 1083 and 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 community of nuns were dispersed and suppressed by the French Revolution.
  • In 1823 the local city council decided to transfer the ancient Hôtel-Dieu (possibly also founded by William the Conqueror, but more likely King Henry II of England), to the former cloister for use as a hospital, and the canonesses regular, who had assumed responsibility for the hospital from the two abbeys during the 14th century, established themselves there.
  • The vault was demolished and rebuilt in 1865.
  • The canonesses continued to operate there until 1908 when the facility was given to the Hospice Saint-Louis for use as a nursing home.

The church was last restored between 1990-1993.

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3 Responses to Praise for Matilda’s Legacy for Caen

  1. debiriley says:

    love how you choose to include the historical aspects in your posts! just curious, Matilda was buried under the choir under the slab…… has she been moved, or she still there?

    • maryannadair says:

      As far as I know Matilda is still there. I went to this Abbey back in 2000. At the time there was a simple block of black Tournai marble which bears the original long epitaph in Latin. In part it reads: “Here lies Matilda, mirror of all virtues. She was the wife of great King William, Consoler of the poor, loving piety and poor for herself, she was rich only through her gifts to the poor”.

      • debiriley says:

        fascinating! and lucky that you could go, and see this for yourself.. wonderful experience! I’ve always liked history, so I thank you for this info 🙂 cheers, Debi

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