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French plan to rebuild William the Conqueror’s flagship for €20m

The Local France
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French plan to rebuild William the Conqueror’s flagship for €20m
(Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

The last one was used to lead a successful French invasion of England - but a project to build a replica of William the Conqueror's flagship is purely for historical interest. They say.

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A historical association in the Norman coastal town of Honfleur has set itself the task of recreating the vessel William the Conqueror crossed the Channel in for his invasion of England in 1066.

The build is part of a €20 million project merging historical study and tourism that they hope will attract 200,000 visitors in the pretty coastal resort.

Although no contemporary plans of the ship exist, experts believe they know exactly what the ship, called La Mora, looked like. 

"The aim is to reconstruct as faithfully as possible this Viking-type warship, with its slender profile, which could sail up rivers and run aground on the shore. This 34m long oak ship will have to be able to carry 70 crew members, including 60 rowers. It will also have a square sail rig of 150 square metres," naval architect Marc Ronet said.

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"This is a technical challenge as complex as it is exciting. Our marine carpenters will have to relearn the techniques and work practices of the 11th century,” Olivier Pagezy, president of the La Mora association, added.

“And once the project is completed, the Mora, which should be ready to sail by 2027, will have to find new ways of working. We will have to find technical solutions very quickly to meet current safety regulations." 

Pagezy is no stranger to naval challenges, having previously coordinated work on the Hermione, the replica of La Fayette's ship.

As with the Hermione, at Rochefort in the Charente-Maritime, the intention is to make the construction work part of a living history exhibit - organisers expect 200,000 people a year will visit the project. A huge disused industrial site near the quays of Honfleur should be cleared by the end of the year to house the project.

The reconstruction of La Mora will be accompanied by an ambitious exhibition of the maritime history of Normandy.

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