Inside the Church of Notre Dame, above the main entrance, a list established in the 19th century details William’s closest companions, those who took part in the Battle of Hastings. ‘… At the foot of the hillside, at the mouth of the River Dives, Duke William gathered together the fleet that was to transport his powerful armed forces towards the English coast… after having camped for a month on these banks before embarking…’.
William the Conqueror's companions
The Church of Notre-Dame in Dives-sur-Mer
The Church of Notre-Dame in Dives-sur-Mer was originally a small chapel built in the 11th century. It is dependent upon the Men’s Abbey in Caen.
Indeed, a century after its construction, the chapel proved too small to welcome its entire congregation.
William the Conqueror provided donations in order for a Romanesque edifice to be built.
Extended in the 14th and 15th centuries, the church suffered great damage inflicted by the Huguenots in the 16th century. Its present-day architecture, of Flamboyant Gothic style, is very different from its original aspect.
Dives–sur-Mer church also became a pilgrimage site after a legend told the tale of a miraculous Christ, bleeding at the knee, found in the sea on the 6th of August 1001. The figure was not attached to a cross; however, a few years later, the waters also yielded a naked cross that perfectly matched the Christ.
The cross is then said to have been placed within the Church chapel. However, the Christ is believed to have been stolen during the wars of religion, after which pilgrims ceased their travels to the Dives-sur-Mer Church.
The currently displayed cross is a 17th century replica.
List of William the Conqueror’s companions in 1066
The Church boasts several remarkable features. Firstly, a leper window can be seen from the outside. This opening enabled leprosy sufferers to attend mass without having to enter the church and mix with healthy believers.
Another remarkable feature of Dives-sur-Mer Church can be seen above the pediment. Arcisse de Caumont had a plaque installed above the door of the main entrance. It lists the names of the 475 loyal followers who accompanied William the Conqueror on his journey to conquer England.
For it was from Dives-sur-Mer that the future King of England set off in 1066, along with a grand total of around 6,000 men.
Finally, over 400 examples of sailors’ graffiti are engraved on the walls – an originality one does not expect to find in a church.
A church that inspired William the Conqueror, Arcisse de Caumont and Marcel Proust
Finally, this is precisely the church that inspired the Church of Balbec, depicted by Marcel Proust in his novel In Search of Lost Time.
Restoration work has been undertaken since 2012. It promises to offer Dives-sur-Mer a return to its bygone splendour, for it has inspired great names over the centuries, from Arcisse de Caumont to Marcel Proust, via William the Conqueror.
rue Hélène Boucher
Tel : 02 31 91 24 66
Images of the site
1027 - Arlette’s fountain
1027 - William the conqueror’s castle
1046-1047 - Ryes, the ‘Sente au Batard’
1047 - The battle of Val-es-Dunes
1057 - Varaville
11th century - Dives-sur-Mer, the church of Notre Dame
1066 - The Ladies’ Abbey
1067 - Eglise Abbatiale
1077 - The Men’s Abbey
1060 - Caen Castle
1040-1050 - The Olivet Castle mound – Grimbosq
1077 - Bayeux Cathedral
1066 - Bayeux Tapestry
1083 - Church of Saint-Nicolas, Caen
11th century - Church of Saint-Laurent, Falaise
12th century - The Church of Saint-Martin, Ryes
11th century - Church of Saint-Pierre, Thaon
1180 - Church of Saint-Samson, Ouistreham
10th century - The Château Ganne in La Pommeraye