To understand England’s mediaeval history, you have to know Normandy and Anjou. Here, between the 10th and 12th centuries, revolutionary changes were hammered out in political, religious and military life, and their impact was felt not just in England after 1066, but across much of Europe too. In Normandy, beautiful Romanesque abbeys bear witness to the rebirth of the church under the patronage of Duke William. Meanwhile, in Anjou, mighty fortresses and wealthy monasteries are testament to the power of an empire that once stretched from Scotland to the Pyrenees.
We meet at the Gare du Nord in Paris and leave by coach at 1pm for Château Gaillard – Richard the Lionheart’s magnificent but ill-fated stronghold, part of a defence system which included Petit Andely in the valley below. We visit both, before continuing to Rouen for our first lecture and dinner together.
On our walking tour of Rouen we consider some masterpieces of French Gothic. Afternoon excursion to Jumièges Abbey, an 11th-century powerhouse of intellectual, religious and architectural endeavour.
We drive from Rouen to Caen where we visit the castle built by William the Conqueror and two abbey churches – Saint-Étienne and La Trinité – which rank among the finest examples of the Romanesque style in France. Overnight in Bayeux.
Probably embroidered in England by command of Odo, William the Conqueror’s half-brother, the Bayeux tapestry is a miraculous 11th-century survival. We drive to Angers, stopping en route at the Château de Falaise, former seat of the Dukes of Normandy.
After a morning lecture, we explore Angers – the heart of Henry II’s Angevin Empire. We visit the Château d’Angers, and the spectacular Apocalypse tapestry. Continue to the remarkably well-preserved Hôpital Saint-Jean, founded around 1180. Free afternoon.
We tour a magnificent suite of monuments in the area, including Fontevraud Abbey – final resting-place of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart – and the mighty fortress of Chinon. Return to Angers for a group dinner.
Drive to Le Mans. Its cathedral mixes a Romanesque nave with a High-Gothic choir, and contains the tomb of Henry II’s father, Geoffrey of Anjou. From here we return to the Gare du Nord in Paris, arriving by 5.30pm.
Dr Marc Morris
Historian and broadcaster with a specialisation in the Middle Ages. He studied and taught history at the universities of London and Oxford, and his doctorate on the 13th-century earls of Norfolk was published in 2005. He presented the highly acclaimed television series Castle and wrote its accompanying book. His other books include The Norman Conquest and A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain, his latest release is King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta.
Dates and prices
£1,490 per person sharing in a double room
£1,755 for one person in a double room
International trains or flights are not included.
Accommodation and meals
The hotels: Hotel Mercure Rouen Champ de Mars (4 star); Novotel Bayeux (4 star); Mercure Angers Centre (4 star). Included meals: daily breakfasts and two dinners (with wine).
This is a wide-ranging trip which involves several coach journeys as well as many visits and tours on foot, often over uneven ground. A good level of fitness is required.
There is no minimum number of clients required for this trip to run.
Maximum group size
Joining and leaving the trip
International trains are not included, you make your own way to and from the starting and finishing point of the trip. Eurostar runs regular train services from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord railway stations. Please note CTC does not arrange international or domestic travel.
Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before you book to make sure you are happy with the advice for the places you are visiting.