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Exploring the Past in Normandy

As any visitor to Normandy will attest, fields of cows and orchards full of apple trees are everywhere. This northwestern region attracts many visitors to the memorials and monuments of the D-Day Beaches of World War 2, not far from the city of Caen. Further back in time, Rouen was one of the largest and richest cities of Medieval Europe. The departments that make up Normandy are: Eure, Seine Maritime, Calvados, Manche and Orne.

Map of Archaeology and History Sites and Museums in Normandy

Prehistoric sites (Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age) are marked with red pins on the map, Gallo-Roman with green pins, Middle Ages with light blue, Early Modern (the Ancien Régime) with pink, Modern (from the French Revolution to the Great War) with purple, 20th Century/Historic with yellow. Museums and theme parks are marked with dark blue pins.
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Yellow markers indicate the location of Medieval Abbeys, for more information see the Archaeology Travel Guide to Abbeys in Normandy.

Green markers indicate the location of castles and forts, for more information see the Archaeology Travel Guide to Châteaux in Normandy.

Red markers indicate the location of archaeological sites, while blue markers indicate the location of archaeological museums – see below for links to further information about these sites.


Archaeology & History Sites in Normandy


Briga Archaeological Site Soon after the French Revolution workmen were digging the foundations for a local road through the forest near the present-day town of Eu, on the Normandy-Picardy border. They cut through the walls of a Roman structure. After several decades of excavations the remains of a medium sized Gallo-Roman town have been uncovered. From the first century AD onwards, the Romans developed a substantial sanctuary complex on the site of what had been a Celtic shrine. Typical architectural features include a theatre, bathhouses and a forum.

Jumièges Abbey

Jumièges Abbey in Normandy, France,The picturesque ruins at Jumièges have been described as the most beautiful ruins in France. Today the ruins of an abbey and its church can be enjoyed in wide open parkland. What we see are the remains of successive abbeys built, destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries, such was the importance of this religious centre. The first abbey, constructed in 654 by Saint Philibert, was sacked by the Norse Vikings as they conquered Normandy, a replacement was built and consecrated in 1067 in the presence of William the Conqueror … Read More.

Lillebonne – Juliobona

Lillebonne AmphitheatreLillebonne is located on the north banks of the Seine River. From the first to the third centuries AD the town, then called Juliobona by the Romans – a homage to Julius Cesar, was a prosperous supply base on the channel between Gaul and Britannia. The Romans abandoned the town towards the end of the third century when it was invaded by barbarians. The amphitheatre-theatre is the most prominent, but not the only Roman feature of the town today. The museum opposite has an extensive collection of artefacts excavated around the town.

Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint MichelMont Saint Michel is an island village with a Benedictine abbey that really is unlike that of any other. Medieval builders were constrained by the natural pyramidal shape of the granite outcrop, and so they created an abbey on three levels, known as La Merveille. At the very top is the abbey church and cloisters, the positioning of which is made possible architecturally by a series of underlying crypts and buttresses. Recent engineering works have restored the island character to this amazing attraction … Read More.

Notre Dame Caudebec-en-Caux

A few of the 333 finely carved human figures on the portal of the Notre Dame Caudebec-en-Caux.King Henry IV of France is said to have declared this church to have been the most beautiful chapel in his kingdom; and it is not difficult to see why. Typically flamboyant Gothic in style, the highlight of this church is the finely decorated west portal. Here you will see 333 beautifully sculptured human figures, each representing the various saints and other aspects of daily life. Of special interest is a figure playing an old Norman musical instrument – the Loure, a bag-pipe no longer played in Normandy … Read More.

Vieux-la-Romaine – Aregenua

Vieux-la-RomaineDuring the 1st century AD, Aregenua (Vieux) became the capital of the Viducasse Celtic tribe. Situated at the crossroads of two Roman roads, the town became an important commercial staging post. The towns of Aregenua and Juliobona are the only two capital towns in Gallo-Roman Normandy that did not develop into Medieval towns following the withdrawal of the Romans. A number of buildings have been excavated, some of which have been partially reconstructed, and archaeological excavations continue to reveal other features … Read More.

Museums in Normandy

Archaeology Museum, Rouen

Archaeology Museum RouenThis museum was established in 1831 specifically to receive and display the wonderful objects recovered from the excavations of Gallo-Roman sites in Lillebonne. The highlight of which is an amazing mosaic floor. Since then it has become the departmental museum of antiquities for the Seine Maritime Department of Upper Normandy. Now, with numerous and varied collections, this museum tells the history of Upper Normandy from the Bronze Age to the Renaissance. Thanks to private donations, the museum also has a fine collection of Egyptian antiquities.

Bayeux Tapestry Museum

Bayeux Tapestry MuseumThe Bayeux Tapestry is neither a tapestry nor was it made in Bayeux. Rather, it is a 70 metres long cloth on which embroidered scenes tell the story of the conquest of England by William, who was then Duke of Normandy. Thought to have been commissioned in the 11th century by the Bishop of Bayeux, Odo – who was William’s half brother, to tell the story of William’s invasion of Britain. There is, however, still no agreement on where the fabric was embroidered – although many think it was probably in a monastery in the south of England. [Museum website]

Fine Arts Museum, St Lô

Fine Arts Museum in St Lô, Normandy, FranceFounded in 1835 as a local and natural history museum, it was not until the second half of the 20th century that the museum became an established and recognised fine art museum. The museum has an impressive range of French art from the 17th to 20th century, as well as a fine collection of tapestries from the 16th to 20th century. Also on display are various archaeological objects from various sites around the St Lô region. An archaeological highlight is the celebrated Thorigny Marble from the Roman town of Vieux-la-Romaine. [Museum website]

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