The peaceful grave site of William the Conqueror is a complete antithesis to a life spent in battle. He died from injuries sustained by his stumbling horse, his grossly obese frame spearing against the pommel of his saddle, dying a few weeks later. The bloated body burst as attendants pushed William’s huge frame into the poorly measured sarcophagus.
Even in death, his grave has been disturbed both during the War of Religions and the French Revolution to the point that only a thigh bone survives.
Caen is rarely on a traveller’s itinerary though a visit to the impressively elegant Benedictine Men’s Abbey (Abbaye des Hommes) of St Stephen is well wanrranted. The abbey was built as a penance by William himself, for marrying his cousin, Matilda (who is buried in the equally elegant Abbaye des Dames across the road). Whatever its history, it is a strangely moving experience to stand and ponder in front of the resting place of such a hugely significant figure in world history.
Footnote: Only around 20 kilometres from Caen, is the town of Bayeux, with the superb (and well displayed) Bayeux Tapestry telling the story of William’s successful conqueroring of Britain.