There are accounts of services in a military hospital in 1814 but no evidence of a continous Church of England congregation after the Peace of Amiens allowed English travellers to return to France. But by 1830 there was a large British colony in Caen both as a result of favourable exchange rates and the direct sea link between London and Caen.
In 1830 Beau Brummel, the famous dandy, was saved from poverty by William IV. Appointed Consul in Caen he lived in 47, rue des Carmes. Resigning after two years he declined into syphilitic madness dying in 1840. His tomb can be seen in the Protestant cemetery. Brummel’s biographer, Maurice-Charles Renard, wrote that the rue des Chanoines was largely British with more than one hundred inhabitants and it is likely that the community had a regular place of worship and perhaps a resident clergyman. There was a Seamen’s Mission destroyed too on D-day.
Quai Vendeuvre in the days of the initial Seamen’s Mission in Caen
In the 1960’s long established Caen residents remembered that, with the agreement of the British authorities, war damages allotted for this Seamen’s Mission were donated towards the cost of rebuilding the Temple of the Eglise Reforme on rue Mélingue (pictured below).
In the early years of the 1960’s English-speaking university students as well as British families of those working for The Commonwealth War Graves Commission meant the question of having regular Anglican worship again became pressing. The solution was found when Michael Jackson, son of a Canadian Archbishop, came to Caen to study French literature. Thanks to his efforts the first Anglican Church service took place at the Temple, rue Mélingue on September 20, 1964, with a priest from the Paris area officiating. Services were held monthly and by 1971 took place every two weeks. In 1973 they had become weekly when Michael Jackson returned to Caen for advanced studies in French literature. The church well known with the growth of ecumenism, warmly encouraged by Bishop Badré. It was he who gave permission in 1970 for Anglican services to be held in the Chapel of the Miséricorde, with the hope that there would be regular contacts among the Christian religions in Caen resulting in better understanding.
The Sœurs de la Miséricorde have been incredibly welcoming and supportive to the Anglican community in Caen.
Founded in the diocese of Sées by Abbé Bezin they were brought to Caen by the Abbé Beaussuire in 1843. Running hospitals, a hospice and a retirement home for clergy the community was nourished by an Ignatian spirituality and a devotion to Mary at the Foot of the Cross. Their devoted nursing of the citizens of Caen during the cholera epidemics of 1866 and 1873 meant their white wimple and black veil was known and loved across the Diocese of Bayeux. Moving to the rue des Carmes in 1865 it took only a night, 6-7 June 1944, to destroy eight decades of building. Immediately taking over the Hôtel-Dieu vacated by the Augustinians – coping with the sick displaced from the hospital and the destruction of their convent – they immediately began nursing again.
The community handed over their clinic to a non-profit foundation in 1987. The Community of the Miséricorde continues to serve in Togo, La Reunion and Spain. You can find out more here
In 1975 when Michael Jackson returned to Canada he asked Joan Boyer to continue to inspire and work for the future of the Anglican Chaplaincy: booking visiting clergy, picking them up from the station and feeding and watering them over 20 years barely begins to describe her dauntless service. We remember Joan with affection and gratitude in our prayers following her death in 2019. After 2010 when Fr Matthew Harrison was Chaplain and supported by Frs Douglas Emmott and Richard Lloyd-Richards we began services on Sunday mornings and have tried to provide services each Sunday and not just during university term-time.
Our thanks go to Joan and Jacques Boyer who compiled this oral history in 2002.