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Kaem  (Norman)
Mairie de Caen 7.JPG
France Caen Trinite c.JPG
Caen, Eglise Saint-Pierre 01.JPG
Rue Froide de Caen 2017.jpg
View of the Abbaye aux Hommes; The Abbaye aux Dames; Saint-Pierre Church; Rue Froide in the old town
Blason ville fr Caen (Calvados)2.svg
Location of Caen
France location map-Regions and departements-2016.svg
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Normandie region location map.svg
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Coordinates: 49°11′N0°22′W / 49.18°N 0.37°W / 49.18; -0.37 Coordinates: 49°11′N0°22′W / 49.18°N 0.37°W / 49.18; -0.37
Country France
Region Normandy
Department Calvados
Arrondissement Caen
Canton Caen-1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Intercommunality Caen la Mer
  Mayor (20202026) Joël Bruneau [1] (LR)
25.70 km2 (9.92 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2018) [2]
  Density4,100/km2 (11,000/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Caennais
Time zone UTC+01:00 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
14118 /14000
Elevation2–73 m (6.6–239.5 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.

Caen ( /kɒ̃,kɑːn/ , French:  [kɑ̃] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); Norman : Kaem) is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the department of Calvados. The city proper has 108,365 inhabitants (as of 2012), while its urban area has 420,000, making Caen the largest city in former Lower Normandy. It is also the third largest municipality in all of Normandy after Le Havre and Rouen and the third largest city proper in Normandy, also after Rouen and Le Havre. [3] [4] 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 kilometres (9.3 miles) inland from the English Channel, 200 kilometres (120 miles) north-west of Paris, and connected to the south of England by the Caen (Ouistreham) to 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 resorts of Deauville and Cabourg, as well as Norman Switzerland and Pays d'Auge, Caen is often considered the archetype of Normandy.

Caen is known for its historical buildings built during the reign of William the Conqueror, 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 and a museum dedicated to peace, the Mémorial de Caen.


Early history

Caen was known in Roman times as 'Catumagos', from the Gaulish roots magos meaning 'field' and catu meaning 'combat'. It remained a minor settlement throughout the Roman period and began to see major development commence in the 10th century, under the patronage of the Dukes of Normandy. Around 1060, William the Conqueror began construction of the Château de Caen, which became the centre of the ducal court. Duchess Matilda of Flanders also founded the Benedictine Abbey of Sainte-Trinité, Caen around the same time, eventually being buried in the abbey. Caen succeeded Bayeux as the capital of Lower Normandy, complementing the second ducal capital of Rouen.

Caen fell to Philip II of France on 21 May 1204, and was incorporated along with the remainder of Normandy into the Kingdom of France.

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, on 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. 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 following a siege by Henry V in 1417 and treated harshly for being the first town to put up any resistance to his invasion. In 1450 towards the end of the war, French forces recaptured Caen.

Second World War

Ruins of Caen Canadian bulldozer in Caen.jpg
Ruins of Caen

During the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War, Caen was taken back from the Nazis 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 2,000 French civilians. [5] 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. The spire of the Church of Saint-Pierre, Caen and the university were 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 city'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, [6] Cadumus 1025, [7] Cathim 1026/1027. [8] Year 1070 of the Parker manuscript [9] of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to Caen as Kadum, [10] and year 1086 of the Laud manuscript [11] gives the name as Caþum. [12] 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". [13] In Layamon's Brut, the poet asserts that King Arthur named the city in memory of Sir Kay. [14]


Caen is in an area of high humidity. The river Orne 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 has a large flood zone, named "La prairie", located around the hippodrome, not far from the river Orne, which is regularly submerged. [15] [16]

Caen is 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) 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.


The population data in the table and graph below refer to the commune of Caen proper, in its geography at the given years. The commune of Caen absorbed the former commune of Venoix in 1952. [17]

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 34,805    
1800 30,923−1.68%
1806 36,231+2.68%
1821 36,644+0.08%
1831 39,140+0.66%
1836 41,310+1.09%
1841 43,079+0.84%
1846 44,087+0.46%
1851 45,280+0.54%
1856 41,394−1.78%
1861 43,740+1.11%
1866 41,564−1.02%
1872 41,210−0.14%
1876 41,181−0.02%
1881 41,508+0.16%
1886 43,809+1.08%
1891 45,201+0.63%
1896 45,380+0.08%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 44,794−0.26%
1906 44,442−0.16%
1911 46,934+1.10%
1921 53,743+1.36%
1926 54,128+0.14%
1931 57,528+1.23%
1936 61,334+1.29%
1946 51,445−1.74%
1954 67,851+3.52%
1962 91,336+3.79%
1968 110,262+3.19%
1975 119,640+1.17%
1982 114,068−0.68%
1990 112,846−0.13%
1999 113,987+0.11%
2007 109,630−0.49%
2012 108,365−0.23%
2017 105,354−0.56%
Source: EHESS [17] and INSEE (1968-2017) [18]

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". Archived from the original on 13 February 2006. Retrieved 28 August 2004.)


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



The coat of arms of Caen Armoiries de Caen.PNG
The coat of arms of Caen

Mayors of Caen have included:

Joël Bruneau was re-elected mayor in the 2020 municipal elections. [1]

In 1952, the small commune of Venoix became part of Caen. [17]

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, Lion-sur-Mer, Hermanville-sur-Mer, which joined the Communauté d'agglomération in 2004. The population of the "communauté d'agglomération" is around 220,000 inhabitants.

In the former administrative organisation, Caen was a part of 9 cantons, of which it was the chief town. These cantons contained a total of 13 towns. Caen gave its name to a 10th canton, of which it was not part. Since the 2015 canton reorganization, Caen is part of the cantons of Caen-1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. [22]


Public transport


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 regular services.

Air transport

Caen - Carpiquet Airport is the biggest airport in Normandy considering the number of passengers and flights that it serves every year. Most flights are operated by HOP! and Chalair Aviation, Volotea and the French national airline Air France operates three daily flights to the French cities of Lyon and Marseille. In the summer there are many flights to Spain, Germany, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.

Water transport

Caen is served by the large port of Ouistreham, lying at the mouth of the Caen Canal where it meets the English Channel. A cruise/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 kilometres (9.3 miles) from Caen with a daytime shuttle bus service for foot passengers. There's also a cyclist road from Caen to Ouistreham. [23]

Road transport

Caen is connected to the rest of France by motorways to Paris (A13), Brittany and Southern France (A84) and to Le Mans and central France (A88A28). The A13 and A88 are toll roads while the A84 is a toll-free motorway. The city is encircled by the N814 ring-road (Boulevard Périphérique) 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 Boulevard Périphérique 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 .


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


The agricultural and food-processing Agrial cooperative has its head office on Caen. Agrial group processes vegetables, cider apples, milk, poultry and meat with the help of its 12,000 employees and all its partners. [24]

Music and theatre

The Théâtre de Caen (1963) is the home of the Baroque musical ensemble Les Arts Florissants. The organization was founded by conductor William Christie in 1979 and derives its name from the 1685 opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Notable people

Caen was the birthplace of:

International relations

Caen is twinned with: [26]


Stade Michel d'Ornano Match Quevilly-Marseille.JPG
Stade Michel d'Ornano

From 1947 to 2006, Caen was a stage of the Tour de France a total of 15 times. [28] Further, Caen was one of the hosts of the EuroBasket 1983. The city has a football team, SM Caen. In 2014, Caen was the location of the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games.



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: [30]

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. [31]


Caen's home port code is CN.


Caen has an oceanic climate that is somewhat ameliorated due to its slightly inland position. In spite of this, summers are still cool by French standards and the climate is typically maritime in terms of high precipitation, relatively modest sunshine hours and mild winters.

Climate data for Caen (CFR), elevation: 67 m (220 ft), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1945–present
Record high °C (°F)16.1
Average high °C (°F)8.0
Daily mean °C (°F)5.3
Average low °C (°F)2.6
Record low °C (°F)−19.6
Average precipitation mm (inches)66.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)12.010.710.810.310.
Average snowy days3.
Average relative humidity (%)86848280818281818386868783
Mean monthly sunshine hours 69.684.3125.6167.3193.7213.5207.1204.4167.2117.879.461.41,691.2
Source 1: Meteo France [32] [33]
Source 2: (relative humidity 1961–1990) [34]

See also

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  1. 1 2 "Répertoire national des élus: les maires"., Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises (in French). 2 December 2020. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  2. "Populations légales 2018". INSEE. 28 December 2020.
  3. "La Normandie compte 3 339 131 habitants" (in French). Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  4. "Grande Normandie : combien d'habitants dans votre commune ?" (in French). Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  5. "Mémorial des victimes civiles 1944 en Basse-Normandie". Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  6. 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.
  7. Ibid., p. 130, n° 34.
  8. Villam que dicitur Cathim super fluvium Olne: the town called Cathim on the Orne river, ibid., p. 182, n° 58.
  9. "Manuscript A: The Parker Chronicle". 15 August 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  10. Her Landfranc se þe wæs abbod an Kadum com to Ængla lande: Here Lanfranc who was abbot at Caen came to England.
  11. Manuscript E: The Laud Chronicle –
  12. He swealt on Normandige on þone nextan dæg æfter natiuitas sancte Marie. 7-man bebyrgede hine on Caþum æt sancte Stephanes mynstre: He [King William] died in Normandy on the day after the Nativity of St Mary and was buried in Caen, in St Stephen's Abbey
  13. René Lepelley, Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de communes de Normandie, P.U.C., Corlet, Caen, Condé-sur-Noireau, 1996)
  14. Brut, l. 13,936
  15. "La Prairie de Caen". CAEN (in French). Retrieved 23 March 2018.[ permanent dead link ]
  16. "EN IMAGES. Caen : inondations autour de la Prairie". (in French). Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  17. 1 2 3 Des villages de Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui: Commune data sheet Caen, EHESS. (in French)
  18. Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  19. "Maisons à pans de bois". Office de Tourisme de Caen (in French). Archived from the original on 20 October 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  20. "Colline aux Oiseaux". CAEN (in French). Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  21. "La colline aux oiseaux, l'un des plus grand parc et jardins de Cae". Site officiel du tourisme dans le Calvados (in French). Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  22. "Décret n° 2014-160 du 17 février 2014 portant délimitation des cantons dans le département du Calvados | Legifrance" . Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  23. Voie Verte
  24. "Annual Report 2014" (PDF). Agrial Group. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  25. Catholic Saints
  26. "Nouvelle coopération internationale pour Caen" (PDF). (in French). CaenMag. 15 September 2019. p. 12. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  27. "Gemellaggio dal 2019 tra Anzio e la città di Caen".
  28. "Caen in the Tour de France". Archived from the original on 13 July 2016.
  29. Cabinet du maire de Caen
  30. "French motto and heraldry site". Archived from the original on 2 January 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  31. Royal Chant, Pierre Gringoire (1475–1539)
  32. "Climatological Information for Caen, France". Meteo France. 6 August 2019.
  33. "CAEN–CARPIQUET (14)" (PDF). Fiche Climatologique: Statistiques 1981–2010 et records (in French). Meteo France. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  34. "Normes et records 1961–1990: Cain-Carpiquet (14) – altitude 67m" (in French). Infoclimat. Archived from the original on 12 March 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2019.