1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers
> 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river
2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes
(e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Valenciennes (French pronunciation: [valɑ̃sjɛn]; Dutch:
Valencijn, Latin: Valentianae, Picard: Valincyinne) is a commune in
the Nord department in northern France.
It lies on the
Scheldt (French: Escaut) river. Although the city and
region experienced a steady population decline between 1975 and 1990,
it has since rebounded. The 1999 census recorded that the population
of the commune of
Valenciennes was 41,278, and that of the
metropolitan area was 399,677.
1.1 Before 1500
1.4 First World War
1.5 Second World War
1.6 1945 to present
2 Main sights
3.1 Public transport
4.1 Mayors since 1947
6 International relations
6.1 Twin towns – sister cities
7 See also
9 External links
Valenciennes is first mentioned in 693 in a legal document written by
Clovis II (Valentiana). In the 843 Treaty of Verdun, it was made a
neutral city between
Neustria and the Austrasia. Later in the 9th
century the region was overrun by the Normans, and in 881 the town
passed to them. In 923 it passed to the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia
dependent on the Holy Roman Empire. Once the
Empire of the Franks
Empire of the Franks was
established, the city began to develop, though the archaeological
record has still not revealed all it has to reveal about this period.
Valenciennes became the centre of marches
on the border of the Empire.
In 1008, a terrible famine brought the Plague. According to the local
tradition, the Virgin Mary held a cordon around the city which,
miraculously, has since protected its people from the disease. Since
then, every year at that time, the Valenciennois used to walk around
the 14 kilometres (9 miles) road round the town, in what is called the
tour of the Holy Cordon. Many Counts succeeded, first as Margraves of
Valenciennes and from 1070 as counts of Hainaut.
Valenciennes was the site of a General Chapter of the
Dominican Order at which
Thomas Aquinas together with masters
Bonushomo Britto, Florentius, Albert, and Peter took part in
establishing a ratio studiorum or program of studies for the Dominican
Order that featured the study of philosophy as an innovation for
those not sufficiently trained to study theology. This innovation
initiated the tradition of Dominican scholastic philosophy put into
practice, for example, in 1265 at the Order's studium provinciale at
the convent of
Santa Sabina in Rome, out of which would develop the
Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum.
In 1285, the currency of Hainaut was replaced by the currency of
France: the French écu.
Valenciennes was full of activity, with
numerous corporations, and outside its walls a large number of
convents developed, like that of the Dominicans (whose church was
excavated by the
Valenciennes Archaeological Service in 1989 and
In the 14th century, the Tower of Dodenne was built by Albert of
Bavaria, where even today, the bell is rung in honour of Our Lady of
the Holy Cordon. In the 15th century, the
County of Hainault, of which
Valenciennes is part, was re-attached to Burgundy, losing its
Valenciennes in this period, however, had several famous
sons — the chronicler Georges Chastellain, the poet Jean Molinet,
the miniaturist Simon Marmion, the sculptor Pierre du Préau and the
goldsmith Jérôme de Moyenneville).
Valenciennes in the 17th century.
In 1524, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, arrived at Valenciennes, and
— even when Henry II of
France allied with him against the
Protestants in 1552 —
Valenciennes became (c. 1560) an early center
Calvinism and in 1562 was location of the first act of resistance
against persecution of Protestants in the Spanish Netherlands. On the
"Journée des Mals Brûlés" (Bad Burnings Day) in 1562, a mob freed
some Protestants condemned to die at the stake. In the wave of
iconoclastic attacks called the
Beeldenstorm that swept the Low
Countries in the summer of 1566, the city was the furthest south to
see an attack. Following the "révolte des gueux's victory at Brielle,
the army of Louis of Nassau, one of the major commanders of the Dutch
rebel forces and supported by the
Huguenot leader Gaspard de Coligny,
Spanish Netherlands with an army composed of German,
English, Scottish and French soldiers, and took
Valenciennes on 21
May. However, Louis went on to Mons, and the
left behind offered only a feeble defence to the Duke of Alba, at the
head of the bulk of the Spanish army, who recaptured
early June French allies, of one of their main bases.
In 1576, when for a time the Southern Netherlands joined the revolt,
the Spanish forces massed at the porte d'
Anzin (in a fortress known as
"La Redoute") were besieged by Valenciennes. However, in 1580,
Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma
Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma took
Valenciennes and Protestantism
was eradicated there. Hereafter,
Valenciennes remained under Spanish
protection, no longer directly involved in later fighting of the
Eighty Years' War. With its manufacturers of wool and fine linens, the
city was able to become economically independent.
In 1591, the Jesuits built a school and then the foundations of a
church of Sainte-Croix. In 1611, the façade of the town hall was
completely rebuilt in magnificent Renaissance style. In the
seventeenth century the
Scheldt was channelled between
Valenciennes, benefitting Valenciennes' wool, fabric and fine arts. To
use up flax yarn, women began to make the famous
The French army laid siege to the city in 1656 (
Vauban participated in
this siege without a command). Defending the city, Albert de
Merode, marquis de
Trélon was injured during a sortie on horseback,
died as a result of his injuries and was buried in the Church of St.
Paul (his tomb was found during the archaeological campaign in 1990).
The Spanish victory in the Battle of
Valenciennes (16 July 1656)
lifted the French siege.
In 1677, the armies of Louis XIV of
France (this time led by
Vauban) captured the city and in 1678 the
Treaty of Nijmegen
Treaty of Nijmegen gave
the French control of
Valenciennes (1678) and the surrounding southern
part of Hainault, roughly cutting the former county in half. The city
became one of the main strongholds of northern France, and was
fortified by Vauban, who personally visited the town for that purpose
shortly after the Treaty.
During the Enlightenment era, the economic situation of Valenciennes
was in decline until the discovery of coal. The first pit was dug in
Fresnes in 1718 and the discovery of burnable coal in 1734 at the
Anzin led to the formation of the Compagnie des mines d'Anzin.
In the eighteenth century, the city was equally renowned for its
porcelain — indeed, it was the porcelain furnaces' demand for coal
that led to the mining enterprises. Despite their quality of
production, the company failed to be sustainable. Valenciennes, rich
in artistic talent, became known as the Athens of the North (i.e.
North of France), underlining its artistic influence.
The city was besieged by the
First Coalition against Revolutionary
France in 1793. Following a protracted Siege of
city was captured and occupied in July by Anglo-Austrian forces under
the Duke of York and the Prince of Saxe-Coburg, and only retaken by
the French Revolutionary armies in August 1794. In July 1795, one year
after the execution of Robespierre put an end to the Reign of Terror,
the Republicans of
Valenciennes tortured, and guillotined five
Ursuline nuns; by some accounts, the nuns were raped before being
executed. After the Napoleonic era,
Valenciennes gave itself up to the
Bourbons in 1815 for 5 years. After that, the town's sugar-refining
and coal industries once more started to expand.
Valenciennes became a sous-préfecture. In the 19th century,
thanks to coal,
Valenciennes became a great industrial centre and the
capital of Northern France's steel industry.
On 6 August 1890, a law downgraded the town's fortified status, and so
from 1891 to 1893, its fortifications were demolished. The town was
Légion d'honneur in 1900.
First World War
World War I
World War I the German army occupied the town in 1914.
Another wartime personality of
Valenciennes was Louise de Bettignies
(born in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux), a pupil of the Ursulines in
Valenciennes from 1890 to 1896. Fluent in four languages (including
German), in 1915 she created and directed the main British
intelligence network behind enemy lines, nearly 60 km
(37 mi) from the front around Lille. Arrested at the end of
September 1915, and imprisoned in Germany, she died of mistreatment in
September 1918 two months before the Armistice. It is estimated that
she saved the lives of nearly a thousand British soldiers by the
remarkably precise information she obtained. For example, it enabled
the British to conduct the first aerial bombing of a train (that of
Kaiser Wilhelm II, who came to visit the front at Lille), though both
aircraft were not equipped with suitable viewfinders and so the raid
narrowly missed its target. The German High Command, based in
Brussels, then put all its efforts into neutralising the accursed
network that allowed the British to see everything and know everything
about this part of the front. Louise's arrest was associated with the
escape of Szeck Alexandre, a young Austrian radio operator got out of
Brussels in August 1915, allowing the British to get their hands on
the secret German diplomatic code. This code was exploited by Secret
Service Room 40 ("Room 40"), under the supervision of Sir Reginald
Hall, and in January 1917 allowed the decipherment of the famous
Zimmermann Telegram, which triggered the United States' entry into the
war in April 1917.
Valenciennes was retaken after bitter fighting in 1918, by British and
Canadian troops (one of whose soldiers, a recipient of the Victoria
Cross Sergeant Hugh Cairns, was honoured in 1936 when the city named
an avenue after him).
Second World War
On May 10, 1940, the town's inhabitants fled by road and it was
abandoned to looters from the French army. A huge
fire devoured the heart of the town, fuelled in particular by a fuel
depot. German troops then occupied the ruined city on May 27. On
September 2, 1944, after bloody fighting, American troops entered
Valenciennes and liberated the city.
1945 to present
The town's first antenna was set up in
Lille in 1964, then the Centre
universitaire was set up in 1970, becoming independent in 1979 as the
Valenciennes and Hainaut-Cambrésis.
In 2005, a local resident, Isabelle Dinoire, became the first person
to have a partial face transplant.
Valenciennes town hall
Museum of Fine Arts of Valenciennes.
Hindenburg Line ran through
Valenciennes during World War I,
leading to extensive destruction.
Valenciennes was again almost
completely destroyed during World War II, and has since been rebuilt
A few surviving monuments are: 1) The façade of the town hall, which
managed to survive the bombardments of the war; 2) Notre-Dame du
Saint-Cordon, to which there is an annual pilgrimage; 3) La Maison
Espagnole, the remains of the Spanish occupation, which ended in 1678.
The building is now used as the town's tourist information office; 4)
The Dodenne Tower, the remaining part of the medieval fortifications
after Charles V ordered them reduced; 5) Théâtre le Phenix, a
theatre and performing arts venue constructed in 1998; 6) The
"Beffroi", a large, pin-like monument 45 metres (148 feet) in height,
built in 2007 on the site of the former belfry.
La Maison Espagnole, now home to the tourist information office
Théâtre Le Phénix
Valenciennes is historically renowned for its lace. Until the 1970s,
the main industries were steel and textiles. Since their decline,
reconversion attempts focus mainly on automobile production. In 2001,
Toyota built its Western European assembly line for the
in Valenciennes. Because of this and other changes, the average
unemployment in the region is now lower than the national average.
On 15 July 2004 the Administrative Board of the European Union's
Railway Agency held its first meeting in Phénix, with representatives
of the 25 Member States and François Lamoureux, those days Director
General for Energy and Transportation at the European Commission.
Valenciennes was picked as the
European Railway Agency
European Railway Agency headquarters in
December 2003. International conferences are held in Lille.
Valenciennes tramway line #1 - Université Station
Gare de Valenciennes
Line #1 of the
Tramway de Valenciennes
Tramway de Valenciennes was put into service on 3 July
2006. 9.5 km (5.9 mi) long, this tramway crosses the five
communes in the Valenciennois Metropolitan area, at a cost of 242.75
Gare de Valenciennes
Gare de Valenciennes railway station offers connections with
Lille, Paris and several regional destinations.
Valenciennes is a subprefecture of the Nord département.
Mayors since 1947
1947–1988: Pierre Carous, resigned (died in 1990)
1988–1989: Olivier Marlière
1989–2002: Jean-Louis Borloo, resigned when he entered the national
2002–present: Dominique Riquet
Valenciennes FC is based in the city.
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in France
Twin towns – sister cities
Valenciennes is twinned with:
Medway, United Kingdom
Vendémiaire Pavot Sculptor of "La Faunesse" in Valenciennes
^ Histoire literaire de la France: XIIIe siècle, Volume 19, p. 103,
Accessed October 27, 2012
^ Probably Florentius de Hidinio, aka Florentius Gallicus, Histoire
literaire de la France: XIIIe siècle, Volume 19, p. 104, Accessed
October 27, 2012
^ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Volume 10, p. 701. Accessed 9
^ "The Place of Study In the Ideal of St. Dominic" Archived 2010-12-29
at the Wayback Machine., J. A. Weisheipl, O.P. (1923-1984), 1960.
Accessed 19 March 2013
^ Cite error: The named reference The Eighty Years War (1568-1648) was
invoked but never defined (see the help page).
^ Tracy p.82
^ Cite error: The named reference Duffy-1 was invoked but never
defined (see the help page).
^ Martin Barros, Nicole Salat et Thierry Sarmant.
L’intelligence du territoire. Éditions Nicolas Chaudun et Service
historique de l'armée, Paris, 2006. Préface de Jean Nouvel. 175 p,
ISBN 2-35039-028-4, p 166
^ Barros et alii, p. 167.
^ A painting of the siege was commissioned in 1793-4 from
Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg
Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg by the publishers V. and R. Green and
Christian von Mechel, who later commissioned a companion piece for it,
Lord Howe's action, or the Glorious First of June. The two paintings
were sold to Mr T. Vernon of Liverpool in 1799 and the 'Valenciennes'
finished up in Lord Hesketh's collection at Easton Neston.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Valenciennes.
Official website (in French)
Discover Valenciennes: in French
Follow real-time news from
Valenciennes on the famous social network
Twitter : in French
Nordmag History of Valenciennes
Fortifications of Valenciennes
Valenciennes by night, City of Culture in 2007 (pics)
Communes of the Nord department