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. Their impact was felt not just in Britain after 1066, but across much of Europe. In the company of acclaimed historian Dr Marc Morris, we consider this tumultuous and assertive era, and its cast of exceptional characters. William the Conqueror, Archbishop Lanfranc, Henry II and Richard the Lionheart all have starring roles, while a wealth of monuments, from exquisite Romanesque abbeys to impregnable hilltop forts, bear witness to their achievements.
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.
After the opening lecture, we drive to Jumièges Abbey, which became a powerhouse of intellectual, religious and architectural endeavour under the patronage of the Dukes of Normandy. Back in Rouen we visit the cathedral – one of the masterpieces of French Gothic despite a traumatic history of lightning strikes, fires and bomb damage.
Drive from Rouen to Caen, whose two abbey churches – Saint-Étienne and Sainte-Trinité – are among the finest examples of the Romanesque style in France. They are also testament to the wealth that poured into the duchy after 1066. After a tour of the city, we continue to Bayeux for a second lecture.
Probably embroidered in England by command of Odo, the Conqueror’s half-brother, the Bayeux tapestry is a miraculous 11th-century survival. After visiting its museum, we drive to Angers, stopping en
route at the Château de Falaise – birthplace of Duke William.
A day in Angers – the heart of Henry II’s Angevin Empire. Our tour of the Château d’Angers includes its spectacular Apocalypse tapestry. A free afternoon allows for further independent exploration.
We tour a magnificent suite of monuments south-east of Angers, including Fontevraud Abbey – final resting place of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart; the mighty fortress of Chinon; and the exquisite Romanesque church of Notre-Dame de Cunault.
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
£1,575 per person sharing in a double room
£1,820 for one person in a double room
Please note flights or trains are not included.
The price includes the speaker and a tour manager, accommodation with meals as detailed below, transport by private coach, admissions to sites as mentioned in the itinerary.
Accommodation and meals
This a wide-ranging trip, involving several coach journeys and three hotel changes, as well as considerable walking on uneven ground.
Maximum group size
Between 5 and 25 participants.
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.