Bayeux is a medieval town in Normandy and the first town to be liberated by the Allied forces after D-Day. It is also famous for the tapestry that tells the story of the events leading up Norman conquest of England.
The town was relatively unscathed after D Day meaning that the beautiful buildings still remain today. This was mainly due to the fact that Bayeux was liberated on the morning of 7th June. The German forces focussed their efforts in defending Caen and much of the city there was damaged.
Click on the links below for more information about the cathedral, the tapestry, medieval Bayeux, the Commonwealth war cemetery and the liberty tree.
1. Bayeux Cathedral
The cathedral in Bayeux is an impressive and beautiful building on both the outside and inside. It was consecrated in 1077 in the presence of William, Duke of Normandy. It suffered serious fire damage during the 12th century. As a result, the majority of it was re-built in the 13th century and the intricate details carved into the stone are spectacular. The stained glass windows are also magnificent. You’ll spend your time gazing upwards at all the architectural details. Visiting the cathedral is free and there are some explanation boards to read as you walk around.
2. The Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux tapestry is probably the town’s most well known tourist attraction. The tapestry is actually an embroidery measuring almost 70 meters long. There are 58 scenes depicting the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England and the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It’s believed that the tapestry dates from the 11th century. It originally hung in Bayeux cathedral but is now housed in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. The tapestry is displayed in a glass case but you can examine it in more detail in a 2D facsimilie located on a separate floor.
3. Old Bayeux
You can pick up a leaflet at the tourist office for a self-guided circular walking trail. There are 21 points to stop and admire the architectural delights of the old town. Here you’ll see buildings that are at the heart of Medieval Bayeux – half timbered houses as well as Romanesque and Gothic architecture. At each point there’s an information board in French and English about the area. One of the boards is on rue des Cuisinieres which is where cooks, chefs and roast meat sellers lived. It’s also where you will find the oldest house in Bayeux dating from the 14th century.
4. Bayeux War Cemetery and Memorial
This is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in France for WW2. The cemetery contains 4,648 burials, mostly from the Invasion of Normandy. Opposite the cemetery stands the Bayeux Memorial built in white stone. The memorial commemorates more than 1,800 casualties of the Commonwealth forces who died in Normandy and have no known grave. The Latin epitaph along the frieze of the memorial references William the Conqueror and the invasion of England in 1066. The inscription reads: NOS A GULIELMO VICTI VICTORIS PATRIAM LIBERAVIMUS. This translates as: “We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror’s native land.”
5. The Liberty Tree
The Bayeux Liberty Tree is a sound and light show that takes place on selected dates every July and August. Visitors flock to Place de la Liberté as dusk falls to enjoy the evening spectacle. The tree is right next to the cathedral making it very easy to find as the cathedral dominates the skyline. The cathedral is also lit up while the show is on meaning that there’s plenty to occupy spectators. The 360 degree film is projected onto the trunk of a large tree planted in 1797. It replaced a number of smaller trees and was planted during the time of the French Revolution. It is known as l’arbre de la liberté (the tree of freedom).
Other key sites include the Museum of the Battle of Normandy, the botanical garden, the Art and History Museum and the Tourist Train. Find out more here.