|Women's Abbey, Caen, France
|Located across town from the Men's Abbey, the Women's Abbey in Caen was also built by William the Conqueror and Queen Mathilda.
As penance for his "irregular" marriage to his cousin Mathilda of Flanders, William the Conqueror built two Benedictine abbeys in the 11th century.
The Abbaye-aux-Dames, or Women's Abbey, was founded in about 1060 by Mathilda and consecrated in 1066.
Its counterpart, the Men's Abbey, was built about the same time.
Free guided tours allow visitors to see the beautifully restored convent, the graceful main staircase, and the cloister. In addition, the Abbey Church, Église de la Trinité, is a centerpiece of the visit.
The Église de la Trinité was built in the 11th century. It contains beautiful sculptures and paintings. The tomb of Queen Mathilda is located in the church.
Today the abbey is home to the Lower Normandy Regional Council.
Like its counterpart the Men's Abbey, the Women's Abbey suffered over the years from wars and deterioration. It was largely reconstructed in the 18th century.
Over its life, the abbey has served as a convent for young aristocratic girls from Normandy; a school; a barracks; a warehouse; a poorhouse; a Hôtel-Dieu (hospital), and a hospice. The Regional Council acquired it in the 1980s.