Bayeux - Encyclopedia


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BAYEUX, a town of north-western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Calvados, 18 m. N.W. of Caen on the Western railway. Pop. (1906) 6930. Bayeux is situated on the Aure, 5 m. from the English Channel. Its majestic cathedral was built in the 13th century on the site of a Romanesque church, to which the lateral arcades of the nave and the two western towers with their high stone spires belonged.

A third and still loftier tower, the upper part of which, in the florid Gothic style, is modern, surmounts the crossing. The chancel, surrounded with radiating chapels, is a fine example of early Gothic. Underneath it there is a crypt of the i i th century restored in the 15th century. The oak stalls in the choir are fine examples of late 16th-century carving. The former bishop's palace, parts of which are of great age though the main building is of the 28th century, serves as law-court and hotel de ville. Bayeux possesses many quaint, timbered houses and stone mansions in its quiet streets. The museum contains the celebrated Bayeux tapestry (see below). The town is the seat of a bishop and of a sub-prefect; it has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, an ecclesiastical seminary, a communal college and a chamber of arts and manufactures. Dyeing, leatherdressing, lace-making and the manufacture of porcelain for household and laboratory purposes are carried on.

Till the 4th century Bayeux bore the name of Augustodurum, but afterwards, when it became the capital of the two tribes of the Baiocasses and Viducasses, took the name of Civitas Baiocassium. Its bishopric dates from the latter half of the 4th century. Before the Norman invasion it was governed by counts. Taken in 890 by the Scandinavian chief, Rollo, it was soon after peopled by the Normans and became a residence of the dukes of Normandy, one of whom, Richard I., built about 960 a castle which survived till the 18th century. During the quarrels between the sons of William the Conqueror it was pillaged and sacked by Henry I. in 1106, and in later times it underwent siege and capture on several occasions during the Hundred Years' War and the religious wars of the 26th century. Till 1790 it was the capital of the Bessin, a district of lower Normandy.

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