Arras: Wikis


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Coordinates: 50°17′23″N 2°46′51″E / 50.2897222222°N 2.78083333333°E / 50.2897222222; 2.78083333333

Commune of Arras

Blason ville fr Arras (Pas-de-Calais).svg

Arras les places .jpg
Aerial view of Arras and the Places
Arras is located in France
Country France
Region Nord-Pas de Calais
Department Pas-de-Calais
Arrondissement Arras
Canton Chef-lieu of 3 cantons
Intercommunality Communauté urbaine d'Arras
Mayor Jean-Marie Vanlerenberghe
Elevation 52–99 m (171–325 ft)
(avg. 72 m/236 ft)
Land area1 11.63 km2 (4.49 sq mi)
Population2 48,000  (2007)
 - Density 4,127 /km2 (10,690 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 62041/ 62000
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Arras (Dutch: Atrecht) is the capital of the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France. The historic centre of the Artois region, its local speech is characterized as a Picard dialect. Unlike many French words, the final "s" in the name should be pronounced.



Arras was founded on the hill of Baudimont by the Belgic tribe of the Atrebates, who named it Nemetacum or Nemetocenna in reference to a nemeton (sacred grove) that probably existed there. It was later renamed Atrebatum by the Romans, under whom it became an important garrison town.[1][2]

The townspeople were converted to Christianity in the late 4th century by Saint Diogenes, who was killed in 410 during a barbarian attack on the town. Around 130 years later, St. Vedast (also known as St. Vaast) established an episcopal see in the town and a monastic community, which developed during the Carolingian period into the immensely wealthy Benedictine Abbey of St. Vaast. The modern town of Arras initially grew up around the abbey as a grain market. Both town and abbey suffered during the 9th century from the attacks of the Vikings, who later settled to the west in Normandy. The abbey revived its strength in the 11th century and played an important role in the development of medieval painting, successfully synthesising the artistic styles of Carolingian, Ottonian and English art.[3]

Although the woollen industry of Arras had been established in the 4th century, it only really came into its own during the Middle Ages. In 1025 a Catholic council was held at Arras against certain Manichaean (dualistic) heretics who rejected the sacraments of the Church. In 1097, two councils, presided over by Lambert of Arras, dealt with questions concerning monasteries and persons consecrated to God.

The town was granted a commercial charter by the French crown in 1180 and became an internationally important location for banking and trade. By the 14th century it had gained renown and considerable wealth from the cloth and wool industry, and was particularly well known for its production of fine tapestries - so much so that in English and Italian the word "arras" (in Italian, "arrazzi") was adopted to refer to tapestries in general.[3] The patronage of wealthy cloth merchants ensured that the town became an important cultural centre, with major figures such as the poet Jean Bodel and the troubadour Adam de la Halle making their homes in Arras.

The ownership of the town was, however, repeatedly disputed along with the rest of Artois. During the Middle Ages, possession of Arras passed to a variety of feudal rulers and fiefs, including the County of Flanders, the Duchy of Burgundy, the Spanish branch of the House of Habsburg and the French crown. The town was the site of the Congress of Arras in 1435, an unsuccessful attempt to end the Hundred Years' War that resulted in the Burgundians breaking their alliance with the English. After the death of Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy in 1477, King Louis XI of France took control of Arras but the town's inhabitants, still loyal to the Burgundians, expelled the French. This prompted Louis XI to besiege Arras in person and, after taking it by assault, he had the town's walls razed and its inhabitants expelled, to be replaced by more loyal subjects from other parts of France. In a bid to erase the town's identity completely, Louis renamed it temporarily to Franchise. In 1482, the Peace of Arras was signed in the town to end a war between Louis XI and Maximilian I of Austria; ten years later, the town was ceded to Maximilian and was bequeathed to the Spanish Habsburgs as part of the Spanish Netherlands.[4][5]

The Union of Atrecht (the Dutch name for Arras) was signed here in January 1579 by the Catholic principalities of the Low Countries that remained loyal to king Philip II of Habsburg; it provoked the declaration of the Union of Utrecht later the same month.

Grand Place of Arras in February, 1919

During the First World War, Arras was near the front and a long series of battles fought nearby are known as the Battle of Arras in which a series of medieval tunnels beneath the city, unknown to the Germans, became a decisive factor in the British forces holding the city. The city, however, was heavily damaged and had to be rebuilt after the war. In the Second World War, during the invasion of France in May 1940, the town was the focus of a major British counter attack. The town was occupied by the Germans and 240 suspected French Resistance members were executed in the Arras citadel.

In September 1993 Ipswich and Arras became twin towns, and a square in the new Ipswich Buttermarket development was named Arras Square to mark the relationship. [6]

Main sights

The town hall and its belfry
Market in the Place des Héros

The centre of the town is marked by two large squares, the Grande Place, the Place des Héros, also called the Petite Place. These are surrounded by buildings largely restored to their pre-war World War I conditions. Most notable are the Gothic town hall (rebuilt in a slightly less grandiose style after the war) and the 19th-century cathedral.

The original cathedral of Arras, constructed between 1030 and 1396, was one of the most beautiful Gothic structures in northern France. It was destroyed in the French Revolution.

Many of Arras's most notable structures, including the museum and several government buildings, occupy the site of the old Abbaye de Saint-Vaast. The abbye's church was demolished and rebuilt in fashionable classical style in 1833, and now serves as the town's cathedral. The design was chosen by the one-time Abbot of St Vaast, the Cardinal de Rohan, and is stark in its simplicity, employing a vast number of perpendicular angles. There is a fine collection of statuary within the church and it houses a number of religious relics.

Two buildings in Arras are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

The Vimy Memorial is a memorial just north of the town honouring a major World War I battle, the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which marked the first time Canada fielded an entire army of her own. Four Canadian divisions fought there on Easter weekend 1917. The Battle of Vimy Ridge was part of the broader Allied offensive in April known as the Battle of Arras. Vimy was the only victory the Allies would enjoy during their 1917 spring offensive. The Basilica of Notre Dame de Lorette cemetery, overlooking the nearby village of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire, likewise stands before one of France's largest World War I necropolises. Part of an extensive network of tunnels dug in World War I by British Empire soldiers can be visited at the Carrière Wellington museum in the suburbs.

Arras holds a Christmas Market every year from 27 November - 24 December. Around 60 exhibitors offer a wide selection of arts and crafts, as well as local delicacies like chocolate rats, Atrébate beer and Coeurs d'Arras - heart-shaped biscuits which come in two flavours; ginger and cheese. Entertainment includes cooking lessons with chefs, craft demonstrations, a merry-go-round and heated shelters. It also offers also native products from Vietnam, Morocco, Indonesia, Africa and gourmet regional specialities from different parts of France: Auvergne, Savoie, Holland, South-Western France and Nord-Pas-de-Calais.[7]

Points of interest


The position of Arras

Arras is served by a purpose-built branch of the LGV Nord high speed railway, with regular TGV services to Paris.

In literature

Arras is a setting in several famous works of French literature:

Arras is also mentioned in the novel Generals Die in Bed by Charles Yale Harrison; Canadian soldiers are depicted looting the town during World War I.

In William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, Polonius is killed whist hiding behind "the arras" - i.e. a tapestry.


Famous people

Arras was the birthplace of:

See also


  1. ^ "Arras". Northern France and the Paris Region, pp. 120-122. Michelin Travel Publications, 2006. ISBN 206711928
  2. ^ "Arras." Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names. John Everett-Heath. Oxford University Press 2005.
  3. ^ a b "Arras." Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. Ed. André Vauchez
  4. ^ "Arras." Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary. (2007).
  5. ^ "Arras." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008.
  6. ^ "Ipswich - Arras". Ipswich Borough Council. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  7. ^

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Arras is an attractive town in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France. It was much fought-over in World War 1 and is mainly visited by tourists travelling from or to the nearby ports of Calais and Boulogne.

  • Grand Place.
  • Sample the local culinary speciality - moules frites (mussels and chips).
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ARRAS, a city of northern France, chief town of the department of Pas-de-Calais, 38 m. N.N.E. of Amiens on the Northern railway between that city and Lille. Pop. (1906) 20,738. Arras is situated in a fertile plain on the right and southern bank of the Scarpe, at its junction with the Crinchon which skirts the town on the south and east. Of the fortifications erected by Vauban in the 17th century, only a gateway and the partially dismantled citadel, nicknamed la Belle Inutile, are left. The most interesting quarter lies in the east of the town, where the lofty houses which border the spacious squares known as the Grande and the Petite Place are in the Flemish style. They are built with their upper storeys projecting over the footway and supported on columns so as to form arcades; beneath these are deep cellars extending under the squares themselves. The celebrated hotel de y ule of the 16th century overlooks the Petite Place; its belfry, which contains a fine peal of bells, rises to a height of 240 ft. The decoration is in the richest Gothic style, and is especially admirable in the case of the windows. Of the numerous ecclesiastical buildings the cathedral, a church of the 18th century possessing some good pictures, is the most important. It occupies the site of the church of the abbey of St Vaast, the buildings of which adjoin it and contain the bishop's palace, the ecclesiastical seminary, a museum of antiquities, paintings and sculptures, and a rich library.

Arras is the seat of a prefect and of a bishop. It has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce, a branch of the Bank of France, a communal college, training colleges, and a school of military engineering. Its industrial establishments include oil-works, dye-works and breweries, and manufactories of hosiery, railings and other iron-work, and of oil-cake. For the tapestry manufacture formerly flourishing at Arras see Tapestry. It has a very important market for cereals and oleaginous grains. The trade of the town is facilitated by the canalization of the Scarpe, the basin of which forms the port.

Before the opening of the Christian era Arras was known as Nemetacum, or Nemetocenna, and was the chief town of the Atrebates, from which the word Arras is derived. Passing under the rule of the Romans, it became a place of some importance, and traces of the Roman occupation have been found. In 407 it was destroyed by the Vandals, and having been partially rebuilt, came into the hands of the Franks. Christianity was introduced by St Vedast (Vaast), who founded a bishopric at Arras about 500. This was soon transferred to Cambrai, but brought back to its original seat about 1100. As the chief town of the province of Artois, Arras passed to Baldwin I., count of Flanders, in 863, and about 880 was ravaged by the Normans. During this troubled period it retained some vestiges of its former trade, and the woollen manufacture was established here at an early date. Early in the 12th century a commune was established here, but the earliest known charter only dates from about 1180; owing to the importance of Arras, this soon became a model for many neighbouring communes. At this time the city appears to have been divided into two parts, one dependent upon the bishop, and the other upon the count. When Philip Augustus, king of France, married Isabella, niece of Philip, count of Flanders, Arras came under the rule of the French king, who confirmed its privileges in 1194. As part of Artois it came in 1237 to Robert, son of Louis VIII., king of France, and in 1384 to Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy, who promised to respect its privileges. Anxious to recover the city for France, Louis XI. placed a garrison therein after the death of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, in 1477. This was driven out by the inhabitants, and Louis then stormed Arras, razed the walls, deported the citizens, whose places were taken by Frenchmen, and changed the name to Franchise. The successor of Louis, Charles VIII., restored the city to its former name and position, and as part of the inheritance of Mary, daughter and heiress of Charles the Bold, it was contended for by the French king, and his rival, the German king, Maximilian I. The peace of Senlis in 1493 gave Arras to Maximilian, and in spite of attacks by the French, it remained under the rule of the Habsburgs until 1640. Taken in this year by the French, this capture was ratified by the peace of the Pyrenees in 1659, and henceforward it remained part of France. It suffered severely during the French Revolution, especially from Joseph Lebon, who, like the brothers Maximilien and Augustin Robespierre, was a native of the town. Owing to its position and importance, Arras has been the scene of various treaties. In 1414 the peace between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians was made here, and in 1435 a congress met here to make peace between the English and their Burgundian allies on the one side,?and the French on the other, and after the English representatives had withdrawn, a treaty was signed on the 10th of September between France and Burgundy. In 1482 Louis XI. made a treaty here with the estates and towns of Flanders about the inheritance of Mary of Burgundy, wife of the German king Maximilian I.

See E. Lecesne, Histoire d'Arras jusqu'en 1789 (Arras, 1880); Arras sous la Revolution (Arras, 1882-1883).

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