Arras, the capital of the département of
Pas-de-Calais, was formerly the capital of the historic province of
It is located 30 miles south-southwest of
Lille, on the Scarpe River.
Arras is at the intersection of Routes Nationaux N 17, N 25, N 39, N 50, D 937, D 341 and D 919.
It is 111 miles north of
Paris, 95 miles southeast of Bruxelles, 112 miles northeast of
Reims, 69 miles southeast of
Calais and 123 miles northeast of
The Atrebates were among the last of the Gauls to surrender their capital, then known as Nemetacum [Nemetocenna], to
Under the Romans, the town was renamed Arras.
Arras’ woolen industry began in the 4th century. During the Middle Ages, the town expanded around the Abbey of Saint-Vaast.
By the 12th century, the word Arras was used by the English to refer to the beautiful woolen tapestries that enabled the town to enter a period of great cultural and material wealth.
Banking and trade flourished.
Concurrently, during the 12th through the 14th centuries, the Counts of Artois lavished the town with various municipal privileges that encouraged economic growth.
In 1237, Arras became the capital of Artois.
Subsequently, the town’s unfortunate fate naturally followed those of the province of Artois.
Charles VII of France and Philip the Good of Burgundy ended the hostilities, between their countries, by signing the Treaty of Arras.
Arras was successively ruled by France, Burgundy, Austria and Spain [1492 to 1640].
In the period from 1479 to 1484,
Louis XI razed the town’s walls.
He then executed a mass deportation of its citizens. During this same period, the northern borders of modern France were fixed, in 1482, by the Peace of Arras.
Many of Arras’ historic buildings were destroyed during the French Revolution,
the Franco-Prussian War, World War I and World War II.
During the first World War, five major battles, known as the five Battles of Arras, were fought.
They resulted in extensive damage to the town.
Some of the damaged buildings have been reconstructed.
The Old Town, in the center of Arras, is marked by the Grande-Place and the Place-des-Héros.
These are two gabled, arcaded and cobbled squares that are
enclosed by 155 17th century houses with Flemish-style façades.
They seem to celebrate the town’s status as an important regional market center.
The monumental, re-erected 16th century Gothic Hôtel-de-Ville [originally constructed in 1572] dominates the Place-des-Héros [Petite-Place].
Its rebuilt bell-tower integrates Henri II type ornamentation with the Flemish Gothic.
The Abbaye Saint-Vaast now includes an 18th through 19th century Neo-Classical cathedral and the Musée des Beaux-Arts.
The museum has a collection of medieval sculpture, arras hanging tapestry and 19th century paintings influenced by Corot.
Arras’ industry is now varied and the tapestry sector has long been extinct.
The town’s major employers are now the civil service and the metallurgical, textile, transportation and vegetable oil industries.
Boulogne-sur-Mer is a port, located on the northern coast of France, in the département of
Pas-de-Calais, 18 miles south-southwest of
Originally called Gesoriacum by the Romans, it is situated at the mouth of the Liane River, on the English Channel, 28 miles south of Folkestone, England. Its name was later changed to Bononia, which was eventually corrupted into Boulogne.
Boulogne-sur-Mer is located at the juncture of the Auto Route A 16, Routes Nationaux N 1, N 42, D 940, D 341 and D 52.
It is 115 miles north of
Rouen, 151 miles west of Bruxelles, 181 miles north-northwest of
Paris and 172 miles northwest of
In 882, the Normans destroyed the harbor.
It wasn’t rebuilt until 912.
Boulogne was frequently fought over by Ponthieu and Flanders.
Louis XI captured it from the Burgundians, making it a part of France.
Following a siege lasting six weeks, Henry VIII captured the town in 1544 [at the end of
the Hundred Year's War].
The English held the port until 1550.
Napoleonic Wars, Boulogne was to have been the embarkation port for the invasion of England.
The French assembled a fleet here, for the invasion, but canceled the plan after the British navy’s heavy bombardment of the harbor and the defeat of the French navy at Trafalgar.
During World War I, the port was administered, by the British Expeditionary Force, as a major supply base.
In the Second World War, the Germans utilized it as a submarine base.
It was also integrated into the German’s anti-invasion ‘Western Wall’.
The harbor was extensively damaged, during the war, but was rebuilt subsequently.
The town is naturally divided into two parts.
The older, or upper town [Haute-Ville], is perched upon a hill, surrounded by medieval ramparts. It is connected to the 13th century castle, which was built for the Counts of Boulogne, by a bridge that traverses the moat.
The 19th century Basilique de Notre-Dame, with its huge dome, that is visible for miles around, is found within the ramparts.
The lower part of town is located outside of the town’s walls, at the foot of the hill.
This newer quarter spreads around the port and is the town’s industrial and commercial section.
Boulogne-sur-Mer’s industries include boatbuilding, building materials, fishing and foundry work.
Boulogne is also a popular terminus for a cross-Channel car-ferry passenger service that operates between Boulogne and Folkestone, England.
Calais is a busy cross-Channel port.
It is located on an island, surrounded by harbors and canals, off the northwestern tip of the Département of
Pas-de-Calais. Calais is 21 miles southeast of Dover, England.
The two towns are separated by the shortest crossing of the Strait of Dover [Pas-de-Calais].
Calais is situated just to the northwest of the intersection of Auto Routes A 16 and A 26, at the juncture of Route National N 43, which runs along the coast and passes through the town, and D 940. It is 130 Miles west of Bruxelles, 181 miles north-northwest of
Paris, 172 miles northwest of
Reims and 134 miles north-northeast of
The date of Calais’ founding, as a fishing village, is unknown.
By the Middle Ages, it had become a major port.
In the 10th century, the town was the domain of the Count of Flanders.
By 1224, it was ruled by the Count of Boulogne who fortified it.
In 1346, during the
Hundred Years’ War, and after Edward III’s siege that lasted eight months, the English were finally able to starve the populace and take the town.
In 1558, after holding Calais for about 200 years, the English lost the town to the second duc de Guise, François de Lorraine.
As a direct consequence, the area became known as the Pays Reconquis [the Reconquered Territory].
The Treaty of Vervins returned the area of Calais to the French after it had been held by the Spanish for the years 1596 to 1598.
In 1805, part of
Napoleon’s Grande Armée awaited the never-to-happen invasion of England at Calais.
During the early part of the 19th century, modern port facilities were constructed.
During World War I, the town was the primary port of debarkation for the British Expeditionary Forces.
In WWII, the Germans occupied Calais from May, 1940 to September, 1944.
They utilized it as a launching base for some of the buzz bombs that were used to bombard England.
The Allied bombing, of the launch sites and war industries, resulted in considerable damage. There was fierce fighting, in and around Calais, following the Normandy landings, that also contributed to the devastation.
The town was clumsily rebuilt following the war.
Calais offers some major tourist attractions.
Of primary interest is the Auguste Rodin 1895 bronze sculpture of the Burghers of Calais that stands before the rebuilt Flemish Renaissance Hôtel-de-Ville.
It commemorates the 1347 surrender of Eustache de Saint-Pierre, and his five fellow Calais burghers, during
the Hundred Years’ War.
They offered up their lives to avoid an English massacre of the town’s people.
The English had laid siege to the town for eight months before the town capitulated.
There is also the Church of Notre-Dame and the 13th century watchtower, the Tour du Guet, that was used as a lighthouse until 1848.
The Musée des Beaux- Arts et de la Dentelle houses works by the Flemish and Dutch schools, together with a display of the town’s dentelle [lace].
The museum also exhibits Rodin’s studies for the Burghers.
Calais is a major transportation center and a dominant point for crossing the Channel.
Its harbor is the southern terminus for the car ferries and hovercraft that transport passengers, vehicles and cargo across the straits.
It is also the site where the 31 mile long railroad and vehicular tunnel, that lies beneath the English Channel, surfaces in France. The Chunnel was opened in 1994.
The town is both a fishing and a light manufacturing center.
Among its products are cables, chemicals, distilled products, electric appliances, embroideries, lumber, paper, plastics, processed food, textiles and tiles.
It is France’s largest lace-manufacturing center.
Calais is also an agricultural distribution center and a popular tourist resort.
Cambrai, which is known as Kambryk in Flemish, is located on the Schelde [Escaut] River, in the Département of
Nord, 35 miles south-southeast of
Lille and 40 miles south-southeast of
It is located just to the northeast of the juncture of the Auto Routes A 2 and A 26, at the intersection of Routes Nationaux N 43, N 30, N 43, N 44, N 30 and D 960.
Cambrai is 91 miles northwest of
Reims, 131 miles east-northeast of
Rouen, 111 miles north of
Paris and 87 miles southwest of Bruxelles.
Under the Romans, the town was called Camaracum. By 445 AD, it had become the capital of a Frankish kingdom.
Charlemagne fortified the town around the year 800.
In the 10th century, Henry I of Germany lavished the title of count on its bishops [who were made archbishops in the 16th century].
Much of Cambrai’s medieval history attests to the strife between the citizenry and the ruling bishops-archbishops.
Cambrai was also frequently fought over by its neighboring states of France, the Holy Roman Empire and the countship of Flanders and Hainaut.
The Holy Roman Empire dominated the town from the 10th to the late 15th century.
In 1508, the League of Cambrai, an alliance against the Venetian Republic, was formed by
Louis XII, of France, Pope Julius II, the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, and Ferdinand II of Aragon and Spain.
The 1527 to 1529 war, between the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and French King,
François I, ended with the Peace of Cambrai [also known as the Paix des Dames] that was signed in 1529.
The Treaty of Nijmegen, that was signed in 1678, finally assigned Cambrai to France.
After the French Revolution, in 1793, the town’s cathedral was destroyed.
The present Cathedral of Notre-Dame was built in the 19th century.
Up to the First World War, Cambrai had prospered by producing a fine linen fabric called cambric.
This fabric was first made here and was named after the town.
In 1917, the British successfully used tanks in the battle of Cambrai.
The town was occupied by the Germans, in both World Wars, and was extensively damaged.
Points of interest, in Cambrai, are the Church of Saint-Géry, the Cathédral de Notre-Dame and the Hôtel-de-Ville.
Cambrai is now a farm trading center for cattle, cattle feed, dairy products, flax, grain and sugar beets.
Its industrial products include building and construction equipment, food processing, metal products, soap, textiles [including cambric] and woodworking.
Douai [also spelled Douay] is located in the flat country, along both banks of the Scarpe River, in the Flemish Département of
It is 13 miles southwest of the Belgium border and 24 miles south of
The town is situated just to the southeast of the juncture of the Auto Routes A 21 and A 1, at the intersection of Routes Nationaux N 43, N 45, N 50, N 455, D 500 and D 938.
It is 88 miles southwest of Bruxelles, 112 miles northwest of
Reims, 141 miles southwest of
Rouen and 121 miles north-northeast of
Douai was probably built upon the site of the 4th century Roman fortress called Duacum, from which its name is probably derived. It became a prosperous textile market town, during the Middle Ages, under the Counts of Flanders.
Later, in 1384, it became a domain of the Counts of Burgundy.
In 1477, Douai was taken by the Habsburgs.
In 1560, a
university was established in Douai by Philip II of Spain.
Later, in 1887, the university was transferred to
In 1569, William Allen, an English cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, fled to Douai where he founded a Roman Catholic seminary for English priests.
The seminary produced the Douay-Rheims English translation of the Latin Vulgate bible in 1609.
Douai was taken by
Louis XIV, of France, in 1667. In 1668, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ceded the town to France.
During the sieges, that took place from 1710 to 1712, Douai was almost completely destroyed.
In 1713, the town became a part of France and was the seat of the Flanders Parliament.
Toward the end of World War I, in 1918, the town was partly burned.
World War II resulted in severe damage to Douai.
Points of interest include the late 14th century , 130 foot high Gothic belfry with a 49 bell carillon and an elaborate crown.
There are the 16th through 18th century Church of Saint-Pierre and the Church of Notre-Dame. Also in Douai is the 16th to 18th century La Chartreuse Carthusian monastery’s museum.
The museum houses a fine collection of 16th century paintings.
Douai is the transportation and commercial center for the area.
It is also known as northern France’s coal-mining center and is located at the edge of a coalfield that runs from northern France through southern Belgium to the Ruhr. Its products additionally include automobiles, chemicals, metal goods, machinery, printing, processed food, railway equipment and steel.
Dunkerque, also spelled Dunkirk, is a seaport located in the Département of
Nord, east of
Calais and 11 miles west of the Belgium border.
It is located where the North Sea meets the English Channel.
The coal mines, factory centers and farmlands, of Belgium and France, are connected to Dunkerque by a network of railways and canals.
Dunkerque is on the east-west Auto Route A 16 at the juncture of Routes Nationaux N 1 and N 225.
It is located 49 miles northwest of
Lille, 102 miles west-northwest of Bruxelles, 173 miles northwest of
Reims, 141 miles north-northeast of
Rouen, 182 miles north of
Paris and 372 miles northwest of
The name Dunkerque means ‘dune [dun] church [kirk]’ in Flemish.
It was founded by Saint-Eloi, on the dunes at the eastern edge of the Strait of Dover, before the beginning of the 7th century.
By the 14th century, the town had become the principal port of
The Count of Flanders, Baldwin III, fortified the town in the 10th century.
During the Middle Ages, the municipality was besieged and sacked six times. In 1658, it was taken by Turenne in the Battle of the Dunes.
It was immediately given to England in gratitude of its help against Spain.
Charles II, of England, needing money, then sold it, to
Louis XIV, of France, in 1662.
Louis XIV subsequently had the town fortified as a base for such French corsairs as Jean Bart.
During the rest of the 17th century it was an operations port for French pirates who pillaged a total of 3000 foreign ships and completely destroyed the Netherlands’trade. The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht compelled the French to destroy Dunkirque’s fortifications.
Subsequently the economic fortunes of Dunkirque declined, not-with-standing the restoration of the fortification in 1783.
Dunkirque was an important French anti-submarine base, in the fight against German U-Boats during World War I.
As a consequence, it suffered numerous destructive German air attacks.
From May 29, to June 4, 1940, the Allied armies were trapped, by the advancing German army, on the Channel beaches at Dunkerque. Some 350,000 Belgium, British, Dutch and French soldiers were rescued, in the face of a heavy artillery bombardment, by the courageous owners of private fishing boats, motorboats and yachts, in concert with vessels of the Royal Navy.
In all, some 800 boats were employed in the evacuation.
The Dunkerque evacuation was one of the great actions of the Second World War, and was known as the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’.
Following World War II, the town was rebuilt according to a new master plan.
At the center of town is the spacious square named Place Jean Bart in honor of the 17th century pirate.
There is a statue of the pirate, in the square.
Bart, who lived between 1651 and 1702, was buried in the Eglise-Saint-Eloi. His statue was the work of David d’Angers and was erected in 1848.
Nearby, is the 15th century, 131 foot high belfry that was originally associated with the Gothic Church of Saint-Eloi which was badly damaged in both World Wars.
Dunkerque is one of France’s most active fishing, commercial shipping and ferry ports.
After the war, the port was rebuilt and expanded.
The port’s facilities include some eight and one-half miles of docks, providing accommodations for ships of all sizes.
The port is well equipped with two floating docks, four dry docks and up-to-date equipment. There are also storehouses for refrigerated products and for dry goods and grain.
Coal, fuel oil, minerals and phosphates are the port’s major imports.
Its exports include cement, chemical products and sugar.
The town’s economic activities consist of fishing, food processing, iron founding, lace making, petroleum refining, shipbuilding, shipping, ship repair, steel processing and textiles manufacturing.
To the west of the harbor is a cross-Channel ferry terminus.
Lens is located in the
Pas-de-Calais Département, 17 miles south-southwest of
It is just to the east of the intersection of Auto Routes A 26 and A 21, at the juncture of Routes Nationaux N 43, N 47 and N 17.
It is 88 miles west of Bruxelles, 119 miles north-northwest of
Reims, 148 miles northeast of
Rouen, 128 miles north of
Paris and 334 miles northwest of
Lens is part of an urban agglomeration that also includes the mining towns of Bruay-en-Artois [Bruay-la-Buissière], Hénin-Liétard [Hénin-Beaumont] and Liévin.
The town was occupied by the Germans in both world wars and was completely shattered in World War I and was badly damaged in the Second World War.
Its products include coal, metal goods, processed food and textiles.
Lille [or Ryssel in Flemish] is a manufacturing and transportation center located on the canalized Deûle River, 139 miles north-northeast of
Paris and 9 miles west of the Belgian border.
It is the most important city in northern France and is the capital city for both the
Nord Département and the Region of
The city of Lille is located at the confluence of the Auto Routes A 1, A 23, A 25, A 27 and A 14 and the intersection of Routes Nationaux N 17 and N 7.
It is 17 miles north-northeast of
Lens, 71 miles west of Bruxelles, 159 miles northeast of
Rouen, 129 miles northwest of
Reims, and 328 miles northwest of
The town’s name is derived from the French L’Île, meaning ‘the island’.
It was, at first, a small village, founded by the Flemish about 1030, situated on an island in the Deûle River.
Before the end of the 11th century, the village had grown into a town and had been fortified by Count Baldwin IV of Flanders.
Before the end of the century it became a leading textile producer.
Lille was the capital of
Flanders during the Middle Ages.
In 1312, it was given to France by the Flanders government.
Lille belonged to Burgundy in the 15th century.
It became Austrian, and subsequently Spanish, as the result of Mary of Burgundy’s marriage to
Louis XIV laid siege to the city for 9 days before he took the town.
In 1708, it was captured by Eugene, Prince of Savoy, in collaboration with the English under the Duke of Marlborough.
It was restored to France in 1713 by the Peace of Utrecht.
Lille was both damaged and occupied by the Germans in both World Wars.
Lille is also known as a cultural city.
In 1887, the University of
Douai [which was founded in 1560] was transferred to Lille, to become the University of Lille.
In 1970, the University was reorganized into 3 campuses: the University of Lille I, II and III. Lille also has a Roman Catholic University and a branch of the Pasteur Institute, which is headquartered in Paris. In addition, there are a number of technical and commercial schools.
The Chamber of Commerce of Lille dates from the 18th century.
Since 1925, the city has hosted an annual international fair.
It also has a strong regional planning and development commission.
Lille is divided into two unequal parts by the boulevard de la Liberté.
To the north of the boulevard, that runs southeast by northwest, is the city’s charming old town that had been nestled within the city’s former fortifications.
Only the magnificent archway, of the 1682 Porte de Paris, remains.
It is a grand mixture of narrow streets and cobbled squares that are lined with stylish shops, cafes and restaurants.
To the south, with its wide and regular streets, is the new town.
The old city’s points of interest include the 1652 Flemish styled Vieille Bourse [textile exchange].
It is an example of the Flemish adaptation of the Louis XIII style.
The Old Exchange is located near the Place du General de Gaulle, who was a native son.
The fine art museum, Musée des Beaux-Arts, houses a collection of 15th through 20th century paintings.
The museum, which has a strong collection of Flemish masterworks, including works by Bouts, Rubens, Van Dyck and Van Goyen, also includes paintings by Delacroix and Goya.
It is said to have one of the best collections in France outside Paris.
Founded in 1236, the old hospital Hospice Comtesse, was rebuilt a number of times between the 15th and 20th centuries.
Its monumental gateway, and its brick and sandstone walls, make it an interesting example of local buildings.
The ceiling of its Salle des Maladies, which was done in 1470, is magnificently timbered.
The Hospice also has a beautiful Delft-tiled kitchen.
The great citadel, now a military school, was reconstructed between 1667 and 1670 by the highly talented military architect Sébastien Le Prestre, Marquis de Vauban.
He began this undertaking just four months following
Louis XIII’s siege of the city. When the citadel was finished, it was considered to be the ‘Queen of Citadels’, a true masterpiece of fort building.
Lille, together with the nearby towns of Tourcoing and
Roubaix, constitutes one of the largest metropolitan areas of France.
Its position as a transportation hub is attested to by its large airport, railroads, roads and river-canal network. Its proximity to the Benelux countries and Germany, has also served to bolster its manufacturing strength.
For trade within France itself, it is ideally located at the head of the navigable Deûle River; this is a pivotal location with respect to trade between industrial Flanders in the north and agricultural Artois to the south.
Lille is France’s long-established textile center. Its other large industries consists of iron works and steel plants.
Among Lille’s products are automobiles, dyed fabrics, electronic equipment, processed food, machinery, printed materials, petrochemicals and refined sugar made from sugar beets.
Roubaix is situated on the Canal de Roubaix, in the northern French Département of
It virtually adjoins
Lille, to the north, and together with neighboring Tourcoing, is a part of the urban agglomeration of Lille.
It is on the plain of Flanders, near the Belgium border, located 5 miles to the north of the confluence of the Auto Routes A 1, A 23, A 25, A 27 and A 14 and the intersection of Routes Nationaux N 17 and N 7.
It is 75 miles west of Bruxelles, 165 miles northeast of
Rouen, 135 miles northwest of
Reims, 144 miles north of
Paris and 332 miles northwest of
Roubaix’s textile industry dates from the 15th century, having been established by the
Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold.
Roubaix, and the adjoining town of Tourcoing, is a production center for cotton and woolen textiles, having some 200 textile factories.
It was granted the privilege, in the 18th century to manufacture copies of English textiles. In 1883, the government established a national textile school in the town.
The town has a chemical industry and is an important French mail-order center.
During both 20th century European wars, Roubaix was occupied by the Germans.
Valenciennes is located in the northern French Département of
Douai, 27 miles to the southeast of Lille and 12 miles west-northwest of
Douai, near the Belgium border.
It is an industrial town in the Scheldt [Escaut] River coal district, where the Auto Routes A 23 and A 2 join.
Some believe that the town’s name is derived from that of the Roman emperor Valentinian.
However, its derivation is more likely a corruption of
‘val des cygnes [valley of the swans], since the local coat of arms features swans.
During the rule of the Counts of Hainaut, the town saw rapid development.
In 1328, Edward II, of England, married Philippa, of Hainaut, in Valenciennes.
The town subsequently, in 1433, became the domain of Philip the Good.
Eventually it fell into the hands of
Charles the Bold,
Duke of Burgundy.
The 1678 Treaty of Nijmegen ceded the town to France.
During the first month of World War I, the Germans took Valenciennes.
In the last week, of the war, the town was badly damaged through Allied bombardments.
Again, in World War II, the town was badly damaged, causing the center of town to have to be rebuilt after the war.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts is worth an effort.
It houses works by such masters as Rubens and Van Dyck, as well as those by talented local painters.
During the 15th century, Valenciennes became an important lace-making town.
The 19th century saw it become one of the leading metallurgical centers in France. Today, the lace industry is virtually non-existent.
The town now produces iron and steel, machinery and textiles.
The University of Valenciennes and Hainaut-Cambresis was established here in 1969.