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Henri-Lloyd - For the Obsessed

La Mora: A project with the support of an entire region

by La Mora - Guillaume le Conquérant 23 Mar 14:40 UTC
La Mora - Guillaume le Conquérant inauguration © Jacques Marmion

Located at Honfleur's East Pier site in Normandy, the build site which is bringing to life an exact reconstruction of La Mora, the flagship of William the Conqueror, opens its doors to its first public visitors on Saturday 23 March.

Gathered together at this unique venue on the eve of its inauguration were all those who have played a key role in this collective adventure, notably including the Sub-prefect, the President of the Calvados department, the President of the Normandy Region, the Mayor of the Town of Honfleur and the President of the Communauté de Communes du Pays de Honfleur-Beuzeville. Behind the association championing the project, an entire region is rallying together and taking back ownership of its history !

The opening of the build site and the immersive scenography marks the genuine starting point for this stellar project initiated by Alain Bourdeaux: the exact reconstruction of La Mora, the boat which enabled William the Conqueror to cross the English Channel. Together with Bayeux and its tapestry museum, Honfleur, the former ducal port of Normandy, also now plays host to its own major facilities intended to recount the incredible adventure of the conquest of England. Set on a magnificent site boasting exceptional views across the old basin, the build site is set to benefit from Honfleur's appeal as a tourist destination, which sees it welcome over 3-million visitors every year, 35% of whom come from overseas.* Formerly closed to the public, the transformed East Pier is fast becoming a venue of choice for walkers, as well as offering a journey of discovery into the region's culture and history to entice Honfleur's local population, the inhabitants of Normandy and those far beyond its borders ! Indeed, an entire region will now be able to take back ownership of its past through the victorious epic of a native of the town, William the Conqueror.

A boat built before the public gaze

From 23 March 2024, in a vast shed measuring 35 m long by 10 m high, visitors will be able to track how the boat is progressing and familiarise themselves with the tools and construction techniques used in the 11thcentury. In the five rooms, which make up the immersive scenographic space, they will be provided with a commentary on the Norman conquest and the maritime history of Normandy. The launch date for the hull of the boat is symbolically scheduled for 2027 to coincide with the thousand-year anniversary of the birth of William the Conqueror. "As the construction period will be short at just four years, we invite the public to come out in force and, most importantly, come back again and again to see how work is progressing," enthuses Olivier Pagezy, President of the La Mora - Guillaume le Conquérant Association. Scaled up, the costs for construction of the boat amount to some 4.2-million euros, which will be financed through ticket sales.

Support from the local authorities

The La Mora - Guillaume le Conquérant Association, which supports the project, were keen to make a strong inaugural gesture to all the institutional partners and banks which have supported it so far. Of the 7.4-million euros necessary for the rehabilitation of the site, 3.5-million euros have been injected in the scheme by the local authorities: the Calvados department (largest public financier and owner of the site and buildings), the Normandy Region, the Communauté de communes du Pays de Honfleur-Beuzeville and the municipality of Honfleur. The State and financial institutions made up the balance. "At the start, this project was considered to be a Parisian project, even though Alain Bourdeaux enjoyed strong Norman ties ! Today, we are very proud because we've managed to bring together an increasing number of people around our project, including local associations and Honfleur's economic players. It is not just about championing a new tourist destination, it is also about opening up our association to all those who want to join us and support us," explains Olivier Pagezy. The association boasts around a hundred members today.

This Friday 22 March, the State represented by Guy Fitzer, Sub-Prefect, the Calvados department, represented by its President Jean-Léonce Dupont, the Normandy Region, represented by its President Hervé Morin, the town of Honfleur and the Communauté de Communes de Honfleur-Beuzeville represented by Michel Lamarre, its Mayor and President, came together around the La Mora - Guillaume le Conquérant Association to welcome journalists and the project's key movers and shakers, just hours before its opening to the general public.

A tribute to Alain Bourdeaux

The inauguration also made it possible to pay a glowing tribute to Alain Bourdeaux without whom the build site would not have seen the light of day. At the entrance to the site, the association was keen to display a photograph of him to highlight his involvement: "We would like the reconstruction of La Mora to be part of a strong cultural and societal project, whose influence extends right across Normandy and focuses on the training and employment of young people. A boat from the past geared towards a project for the future."

"We have also affixed a plaque in his honour at the entrance to the immersive scenography and we've named the inner courtyard after him," explains Olivier Pagezy, who was encouraged by Alain Bourdeaux himself to succeed him as President of the association in June 2022.

Backed by a scientific committee

Within its remit to reconstruct this 11th century boat as an exact replica, the association has also surrounded itself with specialists by establishing a scientific committee. Their knowledge has made it possible to validate the accuracy of the project both historically and technically. Naval architect Marc Ronet, who drew up the first plans of La Mora, notably specified the characteristics of the esnecca** and detailed how the 11th century construction techniques differ from those used today. For his part, historian François Neveux explained the process of architectural archaeology, which enabled such precise plans of an esnecca to be produced. Complementing this approach was an historian specialising in Latin-speaking Norman and Anglo-Norman historians, Pierre Bouet. Finally, Gilles Auger, boss of the Bernard shipyard and President of the Norman group which won the tender to reconstruct La Mora, notably referenced the challenges of work as a shipwright.

And up next?

The opening of the build site, the immersive scenography, the Café Mathilde and the 'Échoppe' bookshop, does not herald the end of work. The restoration of the association's offices and the reconstruction of the building intended to accommodate young trainees who will work on the site, is yet to be completed. Once the site is rehabilitated, the association will be in a position to turn its attention to the inner workings of its community project: reconstruction of the ship with a view to a Cross Channel sea passage whilst raising awareness among youngsters about woodworking professions. "The Endowment Fund we've created will allow us to finance community projects such as the integration of youngsters and those in difficulty to help them find or rediscover a connection with an active life, while raising awareness among students and championing cultural activities," concludes Olivier Pagezy. * 35% overseas visitors = source Honfleur tourist office
** Esnecca - typical Norman vessel of the 11th and 12th century

Practical information
Open to the public from 23 March 2024
Pre-booking recommended via the ticket office

From 23 March to 30 September 2024

From Tuesday to Sunday 09:00 - 20:00 hrs
Last session of the immersive scenographic installation 18:45 hrs
Closure of the construction site at 19:30 hrs

From 1 October to 31 March 2024
From Tuesday to Sunday: from 09:00 to 17:30 hrs
Last session of the immersive scenographic installation at 16:45 hrs
Closure of the construction site at 17:00 hrs

Annual closure in January

Site and scenography visit: €15
€9 from 6-16 years old
€11 reduced rate
Free for children aged less than 6

Site ticket: €9
€6 from 6-16 years old
€7 reduced rate
Free for children aged less than 6

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