Notre-Dame cathedral: Norman lords in Coutances
The first bishop of Coutances, saint Ereptiole, probably founded the first cathedral in the middle of the 5th century.
In 836, a Norman invasion forced our bishops to run away in Rouen, then in Saint-Lô... cities finally plundered by Normans.
In the middle of the 10th century, bishop Robert launched the construction of a brand new church: they began with the nave.
Montbray: an uphill struggle!
The Conqueror’s tough knight
Bishop Geoffroy de Montbray completed the main nave in 1056, then rebuilt the choir, the transept, two apsidioles and the façade flanked by two octagonal towers.
Geoffroy? A brave lord, tough knight, friend of William the Bastard (not yet the Conqueror) with whom he went for the England conquest: he was both a religious and a warrior.
Geoffroy, as a chaplain, celebrated the mass and blessed the soldiers before the battle of Hastings; he also blessed the boat who led them to England, from French town of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme…
He attended William’s crowning in Westminster, William who finally became the Conqueror.
Normans in Sicily
Do you remember Tancrède de Hauteville, that we met in castle of Pirou (Cotentin)? A proud Norman lord with an unequalled bravery, whose sons (tough guys like their dad) conquered Sicily (Italy) in the 11th century!
Now, come over here: we can see on the portal sculptures representing “Tancrède’s 12 sons”.
Geoffroy de Montbray put them here to thank the aforesaid sons because they gave lot of money for the cathedral’s construction, sent from Italy…
Those guys were known as Guillaume Bras-de-Fer (“William Iron-Arm”), Drogon, Roger, Onfroy, Robert l’Avisé (“Robert the Wise”)...