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This article concerns the former country of Normandy. For other uses, see Normandy (disambiguation).

Normandy is a former country (a Duchy) situated in northern France occupying the lower Seine area (upper or Haute-Normandie) and the region to the west (lower or Basse-Normandie) as far as the Cotentin Peninsula. Upper Normandy consists of the French départements of Seine-Maritime and Eure, and lower Normandy of the départements of Orne, Calvados, and Manche. Normandy was historically a province of France.

The Channel Islands, although British, are also culturally and historically part of the Duchy of Normandy.



Normandy has 3.2 million inhabitants, with an average population density of 107 per square kilometer, just under the French national average, but rising to 145 for upper Normandy. The principal cities are Rouen (population 385,000, including suburbs), the capital of upper Normandy and formerly of the whole province; Le Havre (247,000); Caen (200,000), the capital of lower Normandy; and Cherbourg (89,000).

Other towns include:


The region is bordered along the northern coasts by the English Channel. Granite cliffs in the west and limestone cliffs in the east frame long stretches of beach in the centre of the region. The bocage, patchwork of small fields with high hedges, typical of the western areas caused problems for the invading forces in the Battle of Normandy. In the south, the Suisse normande (Norman Switzerland) presents hillier terrain. The meanders of the Seine as it approaches its estuary form a notable feature of the landscape.

The Pont de Normandie crossing the estuary of the Seine is regarded as a feat of modern engineering.

The Pays d'Auge is considered typical of the rich agricultural landscape of central Normandy.

Rivers in Normandy include the Seine, the Orne, the Vire, the Eure and the Couesnon which traditionally marks the boundary between the Duchy of Brittany and the Duchy of Normandy.


Normandy was the home of the Norman people in the early Middle Ages, the last people to successfully invade England. The Normans were a mixture of the indigenous Gauls and of the Viking invaders under the leadership of Rollo (Gånge Rolf), who besieged Paris and was given the area of Normandy (Treaty of St.-Claire-sur-Epte , 911) in return for defending it against future pirate attacks.

Rollo's descendant William, Duke of Normandy, invaded England in 1066 and became king William I of England. Normandy remained associated with England until 1087, in 1106-1144 and in 1154-1204. Also see the Battle of Bouvines in 1214. Normandy was occupied by English forces during the Hundred Years' War in 1346-1360 and again in 1415-1450.

Norman families, such as that of Tancred of Hauteville played important parts in the Crusades.

During World War II, the town of Dieppe was the site of the ill-fated Dieppe Raid by Canadian and British units in 1942. Later, Normandy was also the site of the Normandy Invasion or Operation Overlord that began on June 6, 1944, which day is also known as D-Day. This was the successful invasion of German-occupied France by U.S., British, and Canadian troops. Caen and other Norman towns endured many casualties in the fight for the province, which continued until the liberation of Le Havre on (September 12).

Both Wace and Orderic Vitalis are important Norman writers for the history of the province.

Channel Islands

Since the Channel Islands have remained loyal to the English Crown since the division of Normandy in 1204, yet not are not part of the UK but rather the Duchy of Normandy, the British monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is toasted as Duke of Normandy. However, she is not regarded as Duke of Normandy outside her realms since claims by English monarchs to the title were given up by the Treaty of Paris of 1295 . Additionally, the rights of succession to that title are subject to Salic Law, which does not allow for female inheritance of the ducal title.



The Norman language, a regional language, is spoken by a minority of the population: the Cotentin peninsula especially in the far West and in the Pays de Caux in the East. Many place names show the influence of this Norse-influenced oïl language.


Architecturally, Norman cathedrals, abbeys (such as the Abbey of Bec) and castles characterise the former Duchy in a way that mirrors the similar building pattern in England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. See article: Norman architecture.

Domestic architecture in upper Normandy is typified by half-timbered buildings that also recall vernacular English architecture. Although the farm enclosures of the more harshly landscaped Pays de Caux are a more idiosyncratic response to socio-economic and climatic imperatives. Much urban architectural heritage was destroyed during the Battle of Normandy in 1944 - post-war urban reconstruction, such as in Le Havre and Saint-Lô, could be said to demonstrate both the virtues and vices of modernist and brutalist trends of the 1950s and 1960s.

Vernacular architecture in lower Normandy takes its form from granite, the predominant local building material. The Channel Islands also share this influence - Chausey was for many years a source of quarried granite, including for the construction of Mont Saint Michel.

Writers in the French language connected with Normandy include:

Painters were attracted to Normandy by the ease of railway access from Paris. Claude Monet's waterlily garden at Giverny is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region. Eugène Boudin's paintings of fashionable seaside scenes are also typical.

Artists Norman by birth include:

Erik Satie, Daniel Auber, Arthur Honegger and Marcel Dupré, composers, were born in Normandy.

Christian Dior, fashion designer, was born in Granville.


Besides the historic pilgrimage site of Mont Saint Michel, the cult of Thérèse de Lisieux is a focus for religious devotion in Normandy. Joan of Arc, who was martyred in Rouen, also has a following in Normandy. The influence of Celtic Christianity can still be found in the Cotentin. The cathedrals of Normandy have exerted influence down the centuries in matters of both faith and politics.

Food and drink

Normandy is famous for its rich, rolling countryside providing plentiful pasture for dairy cattle and orchards for apples. The dairy produce of the region is renowned: its cheeses are world famous and include Camembert, Livarot and Pont l'Evêque. Normandy butter is highly prized, as is Normandy cream, both of which are lavishly used in local gastronomic specialities.

Normandy is a major cider-producing region (very little wine is produced). Perry is also produced, but in less significant quantities. The apple brandy, of which the most famous variety is calvados, is also popular. The mealtime trou normand, or Norman break, is a pause between meal courses in which diners partake of a glassful of calvados, is still observed in many homes and restaurants. Pommeau is an aperitif produced by blending unfermented cider and apple brandy. Another aperitif is the kir normand, a measure of cassis topped up with cider. Benedictine is produced in Fécamp .

Apples are also used in cooking: for example, moules à la normande are mussels cooked with apples and cream, bourdelots are apples baked in pastry, and localities all over the province have their own variation of apple tart.

Other regional specialities include tripes à la mode de Caen, andouilles, teurgoule (spiced rice pudding) and seafood. Normandy is the most significant oyster-cultivating region in France.


The traditional provincial flag of Normandy: gules, two leopards or, is used in both modern regions. The historic three leopard version (known in the Norman language as les treis cats - the three cats) is used by some associations and individuals, especially those who support reunification of the regions and cultural links with the Channel Islands and England.

The unofficial anthem of the region is the song Ma Normandie.

See also

External links

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45