Main Births etc
View of downtown Caen and the Abbey of St. Étienne

Coat of arms

Caen is located in France
Coordinates: 49°11′N 0°22′W / 49.18, -0.37Coordinates: 49°11′N 0°22′W / 49.18, -0.37
Country France
Region Normandy
Department Calvados
Arrondissement Caen
Intercommunality Caen la Mer
 • Mayor (2014-2020) Joël Bruneau (UMP)
Area1 25.70 km2 (9.92 sq mi)
Population (2008)2 112,790
 • Density 4,400/km2 (11,000/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 14118 / 14000, 14300
Elevation 2–73 m (6.6–240 ft)
(avg. 8 m or 26 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries. 2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Caen ( /kɑːn/; French pronunciation: [kɑ̃]; Norman: Kaem) is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. The city proper has 113,249 inhabitants (as of 2006), while its urban area has 420,000, making Caen the largest city in Lower Normandy. It is also the second largest municipality in all of Normandy after Le Havre and the third largest city proper in Normandy, after Rouen and Le Havre. The metropolitan area of Caen, in turn, is the second largest in Normandy after that of Rouen, the 21st largest in France.

It is located 15 km (9.3 mi) inland from the English Channel, 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, and it is a centre of political, economic and cultural power. Located a few miles from the coast, the landing beaches, the bustling resort of Deauville and Cabourg, Norman Switzerland or Pays d'Auge, Caen is often considered the archetype of Normandy.

As the city of William the Conqueror, the city has a long and complex history. Caen is known for its historical buildings built during the reign of William, 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. The city has now preserved the memory by erecting a memorial for peace.



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 First French Empire: Gules, a single-towered castle Or, a chief of Good Imperial Cities (gules, 3 bees Or).


Today, Caen has no motto, but it used to have one, which did not survive the French Revolution. As a result, its spelling is archaic and has not been updated:[2]

Un Dieu, un Roy, une Foy, une Loy.

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

This motto is reflected in a notable old Chant royal.[3]


Caen's home port code is CN


Early history[]

Hundred Years' War[]

In 1346, King Edward III of England led his army against the city, hoping to loot it. It was expected that a siege of perhaps several weeks would be required, but the army took the city in less than a day, 26 July 1346, storming and sacking it, killing 3,000 of its citizens, and burning much of the merchants' quarter on the Ile Ste-Jean. 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. It was later captured by Henry V in 1417 and treated harshly for being the first town to put up any resistance to his invasion.

Second World War[]

Ruins of Caen

During the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War, Caen was liberated in early July, a month after the Normandy landings, particularly those by British I Corps on 6 June 1944. British and Canadian 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 Charnwood destroyed 70% of the city and killed 2000 French civilians.[4] The Allies seized the western quarters, a month later than Field Marshal 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. Both the cathedral and the university were entirely destroyed by the British and Canadian bombing.


Post-Second World War 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 does not have the atmosphere of a traditional Normandy town such as Honfleur, Rouen, Cabourg, Deauville and Bayeux.

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.



The very first mentions of the name of Caen are found in different acts of the dukes of Normandy: Cadon 1021/1025,[5] Cadumus 1025,[6] Cathim 1026/1027.[7] Year 1070 of the Parker manuscript[8] of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to Caen as Kadum.[9] 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".[10] In Layamon's Brut, the poet asserts that King Arthur named the city in memory of Sir Kay.[11]


Caen is in an area of high humidity. The Orne River 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 10 km (6 mi) from the Channel. A canal (Canal de Caen à la Mer) 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 Channel at Ouistreham. A lock keeps the tide out of the canal and lets large ships navigate up the canal to Caen's freshwater harbours.


Climate data for Caen
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.0
Average low °C (°F) 2.6
Precipitation mm (inches) 66.1
Avg. precipitation days 12.0 11.0 11.8 9.8 10.5 7.9 6.8 7.8 9.2 10.4 13.8 12.3 123.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 69.6 84.3 125.6 167.3 193.7 213.5 207.1 204.4 167.2 117.8 79.4 61.4 1,691.3
Source: Météo-France

Main sights[]


The castle, Château de Caen, 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 the Second World War. Bullet holes are visible on the walls of the castle where members of the French Resistance were shot during the Second World War. 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 at the Wayback Machine (archived February 13, 2006).)


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

  • Eglise St.-Etienne, formerly the Abbaye aux Hommes (Men's Abbey). It was completed in 1063 and is dedicated to St Stephen. The current Hôtel de Ville (town hall) of Caen is built onto the South Transept of the building.
  • Eglise de la Ste.-Trinité, formerly the Abbaye aux Dames (Women's Abbey). It was completed in 1060 and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The current seat of the regional council (conseil régional) of Basse-Normandie is nearby.


  • Jardin botanique de Caen, a historic botanical garden
  • Church of Saint-Pierre
  • Mémorial pour la Paix ("Memorial for Peace") built in 1988, charting the events leading up to and after D-Day. It is an emotional presentation inviting meditation on the thought of Elie Wiesel: "Peace is not a gift from God to man, but a gift from man to himself". The Memorial for Peace also includes an exhibit of Nobel Peace Prize winners and another one on Conflict Resolution in different cultures.
  • Parc Festyland, an amusement park to the west of Caen in the nearby town of Carpiquet. The park receives 110,000 visitors every year.
  • Mondeville 2 is a regional shopping centre in adjoining Mondeville.


The coat of arms of Caen

Recent Mayors of Caen have included:

  • 1959–1970: Jean-Marie Louvel, MRP & Centre démocrate
  • 1970–2001: Jean-Marie Girault, Parti républicain UDF
  • 2001–2008: Brigitte Le Brethon, RPR & UMP
  • 2008–2014: Philippe Duron, PS

In 1952, the small commune of Venoix 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-Buissons, Lions-sur-mer, Hermanville-sur-mer, 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. 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 Airport is the biggest airport in Lower-Normandy considering the number of passengers that it serves every year. Most flights are operated by HOP! and Chalair Aviation and the French national airline Air France operates three daily flights to the French city of Lyon, while in the summer there are many charter flights to Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.

Caen is served by the small port of Ouistreham, lying at the mouth of the Caen Canal where it meets the English Channel. A ferry service operates between Portsmouth, England, 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 15 km (9.3 mi) from Caen with a daytime shuttle bus service for foot passengers.

Caen is connected to the rest of France by motorways to Paris (A13), Brittany (A84) and soon to Le Mans (A88A28). 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 Cherbourg and to Paris. 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 Orne. The canal links the city to the sea to permit cargo ships and ferries to dock in the port of Caen. 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 station to all parts of Normandy with lines to Paris, Vire, Flers, Cabourg, Houlgate, Deauville, Saint-Lô, Bayeux and Cherbourg. Now only the electrified line of Paris-Cherbourg, Caen-Le Mans and Caen-Rennes subsist with minimal services.


  • The University of Caen, Université de Caen, 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.
  • Caen also has a Fine Arts school (École des Beaux-Arts) and "grandes écoles" such as the École nationale supérieure d'ingénieurs de Caen.

The Caen skyline facing the Saint-Pierre Church. Photo taken from the Château de Caen – April 2007.


Notable Caennais[]

Caen was the birthplace of:

  • Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester (c. 1090–1147), illegitimate son of Henry I of England;
  • Jean Bertaut (1552–1611), poet;
  • François Le Métel de Boisrobert (1592–1662), poet;
  • François de Malherbe (1555–1628), poet, critic and translator (Malherbe's birthplace has survived);
  • Tanneguy Le Fèvre (1615–1672), classical scholar;
  • Jean Renaud de Segrais (1624–1701), poet and novelist;
  • Pierre Daniel Huet (1630–1721), churchman and scholar;
  • René Auguste Constantin de Renneville (1650–1723), writer;
  • Pierre Varignon (1654–1722), mathematician;
  • Charlotte Corday (d. 1793), assassin of Marat;
  • François Henri Turpin (1709–1799), man of literature;
  • Jacques Clinchamps de Malfilâtre (1732-1767), poet;
  • Jean de Crèvecoeur (1735–1813), French-American writer;
  • Jean-Jacques Boisard (1744–1833), writer who specialized in fables;
  • Gervais Delarue (1751–1835), historian;
  • Louis Gustave le Doulcet, Comte de Pontécoulant (1764–1853), politician;
  • Daniel Auber (1782–1871), composer;
  • Jacques Amand Eudes-Deslongchamps (1794–1867), French naturalist and palaeontologist;
  • Étienne Mélingue (1808–1875), actor and sculptor;
  • Jules Danbé (1840–1905) opera conductor;
  • André Danjon (1890–1967), astronomer;
  • Marie-Pierre Koenig (1898–1970), general who commanded a Free French Brigade at the Battle of Bir Hakeim in 1942, Maréchal de France.
  • Joël Thomas (1987– ), professional football player;
  • Elliot Grandin (1987– ), professional football player.

International relations[]

Twin towns and sister cities[]

Caen is twinned with:[12][13]


From 1947 to 2006, Caen was a stage of the Tour de France a total of 15 times.[19] The city also has a football team, SM Caen.


Published in the 19th century
Published in the 20th century
Published in the 21st century

See also[]

  • Stade Malherbe de Caen, Caen's football team
  • Caen Stone
  • Operation Charnwood
  • Operation Overlord
  • Communes of the Calvados department


  1. ^ Cabinet du maire de Caen
  2. ^ French motto and heraldry site
  3. ^ Royal Chant, Pierre Gringoire (1475–1539)
  4. ^ "Mémorial des victimes civiles 1944 en Basse-Normandie". Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Marie Fauroux, Recueil des actes des ducs de Normandie (911–1066), Mémoires de la Société des antiquaires de Normandie XXXVI, Caen, 1961, p. 122, n° 32.
  6. ^ Ibid., p. 130, n° 34.
  7. ^ Villam que dicitur Cathim super fluvium Olne: the town called Cathim on the Orne river, ibid., p. 182, n° 58.
  8. ^ "Manuscript A: The Parker Chronicle". 15 August 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2009. 
  9. ^ Her Landfranc se þe wæs abbod an Kadum com to Ængla lande: Here Lanfranc who was abbot at Caen came to England.
  10. ^ René Lepelley, Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de communes de Normandie, P.U.C., Corlet, Caen, Condé-sur-Noireau, 1996)
  11. ^ Brut, l. 13,936
  12. ^ a b c d e f "National Commission for Decentralised cooperation" (in French). Délégation pour l’Action Extérieure des Collectivités Territoriales (Ministère des Affaires étrangères). Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  13. ^ Mairie de Caen. "Caen, terre d'échanges". Retrieved 28 September 2009. 
  14. ^ "Sister Cities of Nashville". Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  15. ^ Griffin, Mary (2 August 2011). "Coventry's twin towns". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  16. ^ "Coventry - Twin towns and cities". Coventry City Council.. Archived from the original on 14 April 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  17. ^ a b "British towns twinned with French towns". Archant Community Media Ltd. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  18. ^ (6 June 1987)"Twin Towns in Hampshire". Retrieved 6 November 2009. 
  19. ^ Caen dans le Tour de France depuis 1947

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