Abbey sights in Normandy
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The Mont's major attraction is the stunning architectural ensemble of the Abbaye du Mont St-Michel, towards which you'll be swept by a human tide ascending the Grande Rue and a steep stairway. From Monday to Saturday in July and August, there are illuminated nocturnes (night-time visits) with music from 7pm to 10pm.
Most rooms can be visited without a guide but it's worth taking the one-hour tour, included in the ticket price. The frequency of English tours ranges from twice a day (11am and 3pm) in the dead of winter to hourly in summer; the last leaves at least 1½ hours before closing time. Audioguides (one for €4.50, two for €6) are available in six languages. Don't…
Caen's two Romanesque abbeys were founded in the mid-11th century by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as part of a deal in which the Church pardoned these fifth cousins for having semi-incestuously married each other. With its magnificent and multiturreted Église St-Étienne, the Abbaye aux Hommes is near the western end of rue Écuyère. This was William's final resting place, though the original tomb was destroyed by a 16th-century Calvinist mob and, in 1793, by fevered Revolutionaries – a solitary thighbone is all that's left of Will's mortal remains. Today, the 18th-century convent buildings house the town hall, and tours of the abbey run at…
The counterpoint of the Abbaye aux Hommes is the Abbaye aux Dames at the eastern end of rue des Chanoines. The complex includes the Église de la Trinité. Look for Matilda's tomb behind the main altar and for the striking pink stained-glass windows beyond. Free twice-daily tours take you through the interior in some detail, though you can snoop around yourself at other times outside of Mass.