The Port of Caen sits on the banks of the Orne River about 15 kilometers inland to the south of the English Channel. It is the capital of the Calvadose department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France. In 2005, over 109 thousand people called the Port of Caen home.
The Port of Caen is connected to the mouth of the Ouistreham River at the English Channel by a 14-kilometer canal. The mines of the Orne valley provide iron ore for the Port of Caen’s steel industry. Steel is exported from, and coke is imported to the Port of Caen. Located in a rich agricultural region for grains and home to electrical appliance, automobile, and electronics plants, the Port of Caen is an important service center for the region of western Normandy.
The Port of Caen was lower Normandy’s capital during the reign of William the Conqueror during the 10th and 11th Centuries, and many historic buildings remain from that period. William the Conqueror is buried in the Port of Caen.
The Port of Caen was almost destroyed in 1346 when the English army, led by Edward III, stormed and sacked the Port of Caen. The English killed three thousand residents of Caen and burned much of the city. The Castle of Caen was not taken by the English.
When the Allies invaded Normandy in 1944, the Germans concentrated their resistance in the Port of Caen, and much of the Port of Caen was destroyed. The city was liberated by the Allies a month after the Normandy D-Day landings. It took concentrated bombing that destroyed much of the Port of Caen once again to move the Germans. During that fierce battle, many civilians hid in the Men’s Abbey (Abbaye aux Hommes) that William the Conqueror had built almost 900 years before.
Fourteen years after the battle, the Port of Caen’s reconstruction was finally complete. Much of the Port of Caen’s historic area and its university had been destroyed. (The Port of Caen’s university was founded by England’s Henry VI in 1432.) The reconstructed Port of Caen contained industrial zones and the port canal, and public gardens were installed in the Port of Caen’s center.
Due to the extensive damage and rebuilding, the Port of Caen does not have the historic atmosphere of many other towns in Normandy. Today, the Port of Caen is a busy modern commercial center and university town. It is also a popular tourist destination.