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Calvados (Géography & History)

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Calvados, quintessential Normandy, a diversity of maritime and rural landscapes
An extraordinary history – the Vikings,
William the Conqueror: Duke of Normandy and King of England
The allied landings on June 6th 1944.

At the time of the Roman conquest, there were three main populations: the Baiocassians (around Bayeux) to the west; the Lexovians (Lisieux) to the east; and between these two populations, the Viducassians. They lived under imperial domination until the Armorican revolt in the early 5th Century AD, and their independence came to an end at the time of the Norman Conquest of Pious Neustria by Clovis. Following the invasion by "Northmen" from Scandinavia, Normandy was founded (conceded to Rollon by Charles III the Simple via the Treaty of St-Clair-sur-Epte in 911 AD). In 1066, William Duke of Normandy, born in Falaise, landed in England to claim his inherited right to the throne. Victorious at the Battle of Hastings, he was crowned King of England. Following several failed attempts, the Dukedom of Normandy was finally annexed by the French monarchy in 1204; however it preserved significant autonomy until 1450.
During the 17th Century, the department underwent major change thanks to improved transport networks reducing the travelling time between Caen and Paris from a few days to a few hours. This transformation led to an agricultural revolution (cultivated land transformed into grazing land due to the more profitable sale of fresh produce transported to Paris).

As legend would have it, the department's name stems from the « Salvador » (become Calvados through centuries of linguistic deformation), a vessel from the invincible Spanish Armada said to have shipwrecked on the rocks off the Arromanches coast. However, as demonstrated by René Lepelley in 1990, the name very probably originates from two heights previously known as dos (dorsa in Latin, hump), situated at a distance of 17km, and which, from the high seas, appeared to be "bald" (calva in Latin) since covered with very sparse vegetation, and used by sailors as a landmark.
In 1790, the French National Assembly, which had just created the French departments, preferred this name to « Inferior Orne ».

Calvados again entered into history in the mid 20th Century with the D-Day landings on 6th June 1944 and the decisive "Battle of Normandy" which followed, giving way to France's return to freedom.
The department is geologically linked to the Paris basin to the east and the Armorican Massif to the west, creating a mosaic of distinctive landscapes and "pays". The "Bessin" to the west, in the vicinity of Bayeux, comprises a low inflected plateau with river valleys scattered with quickset hedgerows and a few forests. To the south-west, the "Bocage Virois" already bears the signature of the nearby Breton granite bedrock. The landscape's undulating physiognomy, carved by the course of streams and rivers, has led to it being known as "Suisse Normande" (Swiss Normandy) in the vicinity of the rivers Orne and Vire. The department's centre is dominated by the Caen plain which extends south to the Falaise plain. To the east, the Pays d'Auge with its typical half-timbered houses is the epitome of Norman charm. Bordered by the Flowery coast, the area is one of Calvados's main tourist attractions. From Honfleur to Isigny-sur-Mer, the shoreline offers a variety of settings ranging from cliff tops to gentle slopes and sandy beaches.
The department is more or less rectangular covering a distance of 100km from east to west and 60km from north to south. To the north, beyond the English Channel, the department borders the United Kingdom.

  • Batteries de Longues sur Mer
  • Bayeux