As I said in a previous post, we decided to visit the northern coast of Normandy for a few days to get away from the heat in Paris. Fécamp started out at the mouth of a depression, where the Ganzeville and Valmont rivers meet and flow into the sea. It was the capital of the duchy of Normandy until the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, when William of Normandy, who inherited the English crown from his cousin Edward the Confessor, sailed across the channel with a full fleet to defeat Harold, the pretender to the throne, at the Battle of Hastings. This is part of the same Côte d'Albâtre (Alabaster Coast) as Étretat. The section around Fécamp also goes by the poetic name of le Pays des Hautes Falaises (high cliff country) conjuring up the flavor of salty air and the shrieks of circling gulls.
The royal basilica of Saint-Denis belonged to a prosperous and powerful Benedictine abbey during the Middle Ages and was the first monumental masterpiece of Gothic art. Enlarged in the 7th century through the impetus of Dagobert 1 (639 AD) who was buried there, followed by his son Clovis II (657 AD), the monastery quickly became one of the main burial sites for the Merovingian dynasty. From the time of Hugues Capet (987-996), the first Capetian monarch, the basilica was firmly established as the definitive “Cemetery of Kings”. It continued to develop, and proceeded to become one of the most powerful Benedictine abbeys of the Middle Ages. The royal necropolis contains tombs of French kings with remarkable funerary sculpture dating from 12th to 16th centuries.