The Liberation and wartime bombardments left many traces in Caen. But the city was successfully and harmoniously rebuilt. Come and see the most notable Reconstruction sites…
Completely reconstructed buildings
The University, north of Caen Castle, near the Jardin des Plantes, was one of the first buildings to be erected during the Reconstruction of Caen ! It took 9 years to rebuild the campus designed by the architect Henry Bernard. Caen University is listed as a historic monument, and has over 30,000 students. The bronze statue made by Louis Leygue is now a symbol of the city, representing the phoenix rising from the ashes. Don’t miss the Map of Rome on a scale of 1/400th in the Research and Human Sciences House.
Direction downtown Caen, Place Saint-Jean, where stands the Church of St. John. Once there, take the time to observe it from the outside … The Church will certainly remind you of a famous Italian monument a little leaning. It is not for nothing that it is nicknamed the Tower of Pisa of Caen! In 1944, the monument does not escape enemy attacks and during its reconstruction, concrete piles are added to stabilize the church, as well as the Pierre de Caen. It is besides in the quarries of Pierre de Caen that many inhabitants took refuge during the bombings …
Among the buildings affected by the bombings, the theater of Caen was the last that the city has lost. It will only be rebuilt in 1955 with a more modern architecture while retaining the spirit of « Italian theaters », with its two semicircular balconies. In the spring of 1963, the theater hosts the National Congress of Reconstruction.
Districts keeping the past alive
A little way away from the city centre, you can enjoy a stroll in the little streets of the garden-city district, Nice Caennais. It was built in 1930 on the site of old nurseries for a wealthy population wanting to move away from the city centre. The district was originally surrounded by metal railings to create the impression of a large, safe garden. During the Occupation, it is said that the only civilian victim in Nice Caennais was a cat living at n°31 in one of the villas requisitioned by German officers. Today, you can visit the district, where the railings are no more. At the entrance, don’t miss the Villa Héliante, an Art Deco monument created in 1927 by a herbalist !
The Avenue du 6 Juin is in the heart of the city of Caen. True emblem of the Reconstruction, it is aptly named. Built to split the Rue Saint-Jean and streamline traffic, the Avenue du 6 Juin connects the station to the University of Caen. In the middle of the avenue, stop at the Place de la Résistance. The 6 Marine Towers in Caen, were built between 1951 and 1953. High 8 floors, they pay tribute to the Rue de la Marine, which had the same route as the Avenue du 6 Juin. These towers with modern architecture and worked bas-reliefs, announce the entrance to the path leading to the Castle and the Quatrans district.
During the Reconstruction, in 1961, the French state decided to build a new, modern town to the north-east of Caen. The old village of Hérouville was then renamed Hérouville-Saint-Clair. It gave working people in Caen accommodation in a completely new town. The « commuter town » was divided into modern districts around a building with the Town Hall and shops: the Citadelle Douce. The metal water tower in Hérouville-Saint-Clair, which was built in 1968, was given the « 20th Century Heritage Label » in 2007. The water tower is lit up at night and towers above Hérouville-Saint-Clair. It is a real symbol of the new town !
The SMN (Société Métallurgique de Normandie) metal-working company was founded in 1912 and was based in the towns of Colombelles and Giberville. It played a major role in the Reconstruction of Caen. After surviving the First and Second World Wars, the local metal industry underwent a real renaissance, creating many new jobs. The plant employed over 6000 people, some of whom lived in a company town located on « The Plateau » near the factory. Guided visits are organised by members of the SNM Memory and Heritage association to see the electricity workshop, the duty desks and the cold room, and to share the history of this remarkable example of a company town.