LILLE Lille (French pronunciation: [lil]) is a city in northern France (French Flanders). It is the principal city of the Lille Métropole, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country behind those of Paris, Lyon and Marseille. Lille is situated on the Deûle River, near France’s border with Belgium. It is the capital of the Nord-Pas de Calais region and the prefecture of the Nord department. The city of Lille, which annexed Lomme on 27 February 2000, had a population of 226,014 at the 2006 census. Meanwhile, the Lille Métropole, which also includes Roubaix, Tourcoing and numerous suburban communities, had a population of 1,091,438. The eurodistrict of Lille-Kortrijk, which also includes the areas of the Belgian cities of Kortrijk, Tournai, Mouscron and Ypres, had 1,905,000 residents. HISTORY: Origin of the city The legend of “Lydéric and Phinaert” puts the foundation of the city of “L’Isle” at 640. Although the first mention of the town appears in archives from the year 1066, some archeological digs seem to show the area as inhabited by as early as 2000 BC, most notably in the modern-day quartiers of Fives, Wazemmes, and Old Lille. The original inhabitants of this region were the Gauls, such as the Menapians, the Morins, the Atrebates, and the Nervians, who were followed by Germanic peoples, the Saxons and the Frisians, and the Franks later. From 830 until around 910, the Vikings invaded Flanders. After the destruction caused by Norman and Magyar invasion, the eastern part of the region fell under the eyes of the area’s princes. The name Lille comes from insula or l’Isla, “the island”, since the area was at one time marshy. This name was used for the castle of the Counts of Flanders, built on dry land in the middle of the marsh. The Dutch name for the town, Rijsel, has the same meaning (“Ryssel” in French Flemish, from “ter Yssel” meaning “to/at the island”). The Count of Flanders controlled a number of old Roman cities (Boulogne, Arras, Cambrai) as well as some founded by the Carolingians (Valenciennes, Saint-Omer, Ghent, Bruges). The County of Flanders thus extended to the left bank of the Scheldt, one of the richest and most prosperous regions of Europe.
MIDDLE AGES A local notable in this period was Évrard, who lived in the 9th century and participated in many of the day’s political and military affairs. From the 12th century, the fame of the Lille cloth fair began to grow. In 1144 SaintSauveur parish was formed, which would give its name to the modern-day quartier Saint-Sauveur. The counts of Flanders, Boulogne, and Hainaut came together with England and the Holy Roman Empire of Germany and declared war on France and Philip II of France, a war that ended with the French victory at Bouvines in 1214. Infante Ferdinand, Count of Flanders was imprisoned and the county fell into dispute: it would be his wife, Jeanne, Countess of Flanders and Constantinople, who ruled the city. She was said to be well-loved by the residents of Lille, who by that time numbered 10,000. In 1224, the monk Bertrand of Rains, doubtlessly encouraged by local lords, tried to pass himself off as Baldwin I of Constantinople (the father of Jeanne of Flanders), who had disappeared at the battle of Adrianople. He pushed the kingdoms of Flanders and Hainaut towards sedition against Jeanne in order to recover his land. She called her cousin, Louis VIII (“The Lion”). He unmasked the imposter, whom Countess Jeanne quickly had hanged. In 1226 the King agreed to free Infante Ferdinand, Count of Flanders. Count Ferrand died in 1233, and his daughter Marie soon after. In 1235, Jeanne granted a city charter by which city governors would be chosen each All Saint’s Day by four commissioners chosen by the ruler. On February 6, 1236, she founded the Countess’s Hospital (L’hospice de la comtesse), which remains one of the most beautiful buildings in Old Lille. It was in her honor that the hospital of the Regional Medical University of Lille was named “Jeanne of Flanders Hospital” in the 20th century. The Countess died in 1244 in the Abbey of Marquette, leaving no heirs. The rule of Flanders and Hainaut thus fell to her sister, Margaret II, Countess of Flanders, then to Margaret’s son, Guy of Dampierre. Lille fell under the rule of France from 1304 to 1369, after the battle of Mons-en-Pévèle. The county of Flanders fell to the Duchy of Burgundy next, after the 1369 marriage of Margaret III, Countess of Flanders, and Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Lille thus became one of the three capitals of said Duchy, along with Brussels and Dijon. By 1445, Lille counted some 25,000 residents. Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, was even more powerful than the King of France, and made Lille an administrative and financial capital. On 17 February 1454, one year after the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, Philip the Good organised a Pantagruelian banquet at his Lille palace, the still-celebrated “Feast of the Pheasant”. There the Duke and his court undertook an oath to Christianity. In 1477, at the death of the last duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, Mary of Burgundy married Maximilian of Austria, who thus became Count of Flanders. At the end of the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Spanish Flanders fell to his eldest son, and thus under the rule of Philip II of Spain, King of Spain. The city remained under Spanish rule until the reign of Philip IV of Spain.
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THE MODERN ERA The 16th century was marked by the outbreak of the Plague, a boom in the regional textile industry, and the Protestant revolts. The first Calvinists appeared in the area in 1542; by 1555 antiProtestant repression was taking place. In 1578, the Hurlus, a group of Protestant rebels, stormed the castle of the Counts of Mouscron. They were removed four months later by a Catholic Wallon regiment, after which they tried several times between 1581 and 1582 to take the city of Lille, all in vain. The Hurlus were notably held back by the legendary Jeanne Maillotte. At the same time (1581), at the call of Elizabeth I of England, the north of the Seventeen Provinces, having gained a Protestant majority, successfully revolted and formed the United Provinces. In 1667, Louis XIV of France (the Sun-King) successfully laid siege to Lille, resulting in it becoming French in 1668 under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, provoking discontent among the citizens of the prosperous city. A number of important public works undertaken between 1667 and 1670, such as the Citadel (erected by Vauban), or the creation of the quartiers of Saint-André and la Madeleine, enabled the King to gradually gain the confidence of his Lille subjects, some of whom continued to feel Flemish, though they had always spoken the Romance Picard language. Entrance to the ‘Vauban Citadel’ (17th century). For five years, from 1708 to 1713, the city was occupied by the Dutch, during the War of the Spanish Succession. Throughout the 18th century, Lille remained profoundly Catholic. It took little part in the French Revolution, though there were riots and the destruction of churches. In 1790, the city held its first municipal elections.
AFTER THE FRENCH REVOLUTION In 1792, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, the Austrians, then in the United Provinces, laid siege to Lille. The “Column of the Goddess”, erected in 1842 in the “Grand-Place” (officially named Place du Général-de-Gaulle), is a tribute to the city’s resistance, led by Mayor André Bonte. Although Austrian artillery destroyed many houses and the main church of the city, the city did not surrender and the Austrian army left after eight days. The black dots around the windows (not the decorative cartouches) are Austrian cannonballs lodged in the façade. The city continued to grow, and by 1800 held some 53,000 residents, leading to Lille becoming the county seat of the Nord départment in 1804. In 1846, a rail line connecting Paris and Lille was built. At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon I’s continental blockade against the United Kingdom led to Lille’s textile industry developing itself even more fully. The city was known for its cotton, and the nearby towns of Roubaix and Tourcoing worked wool. In 1853, Alexandre Desrousseaux composed his famous lullaby P’tit quinquin. In 1858, an imperial decree led to the annexation of the adjacent towns of Fives, Wazemmes, and Moulins. Lille’s population was 158,000 in 1872, growing to over 200,000 by 1891. In 1896 Lille became the first city in France to be led by a socialist, Gustave Delory. By 1912, Lille’s population was at 217,000: the city profited from the Industrial Revolution, particularly via coal and the steam engine. The entire region had grown wealthy thanks to the mines and to the textile industry.
FIRST WORLD WAR Between 4–13 October 1914, the troops in Lille were able to trick the enemy by convincing them that Lille possessed more artillery than was the case; in reality, the city had only a single cannon. Despite the deception, the German bombardments destroyed over 2,200 buildings and homes. When the Germans realised they had been tricked, they burned down an entire section of town, subsequently occupying the city. Lille was liberated by the British on 17 October 1918, when General Sir William Birdwood and his troops were welcomed by joyous crowds. The general was made an honorary citizen of the city of Lille on 28 October of that year. Lille was also the hunting ground of World War I German flying Ace Max Immelmann who was nicknamed “the Eagle of Lille”. THE ANNÉES FOLLES, THE GREAT DEPRESSION, AND THE POPULAR FRONT In July 1921, at the Pasteur Institute in Lille, Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin discovered the first anti-tuberculosis vaccine, known as BCG (“Bacille de Calmette et Guérin”). The Opéra de Lille, designed by Lille architect Louis M. Cordonnier, was dedicated in 1923. From 1931 Lille felt the repercussions of the Great Depression, and by 1935 a third of the city’s population lived in poverty. In 1936, the city’s mayor, Roger Salengro, became Minister of the Interior of the Popular Front, eventually killing himself after right-wing groups led a slanderous campaign against him. SECOND WORLD WAR Lille was taken by the Germans in May 1940, after brief resistance by a Moroccan Infantry division. When Belgium was invaded, the citizens of Lille, still marked by the events of the First World War, began to flee the city in large numbers. Lille was part of the zone under control of the German commander in Brussels, and was never controlled by the Vichy government in France. The départments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais (with the exception of the coast,
notably Dunkirk) were, for the most part, liberated in five days, from the 1 to 5 September 1944 by British, American, Canadian, and Polish troops. On 3 September, the German troops began to leave Lille, fearing the British, who were on their way from Brussels. Following this, the Lille resistance managed to retake part of the city before the British tanks arrived. Rationing came to an end in 1947, and by 1948, some normality had returned to Lille. POST-WAR TO THE PRESENT In 1967, the Chambers of Commerce of Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing were joined, and in 1969 the Communauté urbaine de Lille (Lille urban community) was created, linking 87 communes with Lille. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the region was faced with some problems after the decline of the coal, mining and textile industries. From the start of the 1980s, the city began to turn itself more towards the service sector. In 1983, the VAL, the world’s first automated rapid transit underground network, was opened. In 1993, a highspeed TGV train line was opened, connecting Paris with Lille in one hour. This, with the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 and the arrival of the Eurostar train, put Lille at the centre of a triangle connecting Paris, London and Brussels. Work on Euralille, an urban remodelling project, began in 1991. The Euralille Centre was opened in 1994, and the remodeled district is now full of parks and modern buildings containing offices, shops and apartments. In 1994 the “Grand Palais” was also opened. Lille was elected European Capital of Culture in 2004, along with the Italian city of Genoa ECONOMY A former major mechanical, food industry and textile manufacturing centre as well as a retail and finance center, Lille forms the heart of a larger conurbation, regrouping Lille, Roubaix, Tourcoing and Villeneuve d’Ascq, which is France’s 4th-largest urban conglomeration with a 1999 population of over 1.1 million.
REVENUES AND TAXES For centuries, Lille has been a city of revenues contrasts : as a merchants city, great wealth and precarity have been living side by side, especially until the end of the 19th century. This contrast has been witnessed by Victor Hugo in 1851 in his poem Les Châtiments: « Caves de Lille ! on meurt sous vos plafonds de pierre ! » ((English) « Lille cellars : there are deaths below your stone roofs») EMPLOYMENT Employment in Lille has switched over half a century from a predominant industry to tertiary activities and services. Services account for 91% of employment in 2006. MAIN SIGHTS Lille features an array of architectural styles with various amounts of Flemish influence, including the use of brown and red brick. In addition, many residential neighborhoods, especially in Greater Lille, consist of attached 2-3 story houses aligned in a row, with narrow gardens in the back. These architectural attributes, many uncommon in France, help make Lille a transition in France to neighboring Belgium, as well as nearby Netherlands and England, where the presence of brick, as well as row houses or the Terraced house is much more prominent. PUBLIC TRANSPORT The Lille Métropole has a mixed mode public transport system, which is considered one of the most modern in the whole of France. It comprises buses, trams and a driverless metro system, all of which are operated under the Transpole name. The Lille Metro is a VAL system (véhicule automatique léger = light automated vehicle) that opened on 16 May 1983, becoming the first automatic metro line in the world. The metro system has two lines, with a total length of 45 km and 60 stations. The tram system consists of two interurban tram lines, connecting central Lille to the nearby communities of Roubaix and Tourcoing, and has 45 stops. 68 urban bus routes cover the metropolis, 8 of which reach into Belgium.
RAILWAYS Lille is an important crossroads in the European high-speed rail network: it lies on the Eurostar line to London and the French TGV network to Paris, Brussels and other major centres in France such as Marseille, Lyon, and Toulouse. It has two railway stations, which stand next door to one another: Lille-Europe station (Gare de Lille-Europe), which primarily serves high-speed trains and international services (Eurostar), and Lille-Flandres station (Gare de Lille-Flandres), which primarily serves lower speed regional trains. HIGHWAYS No fewer than five autoroutes pass by Lille, the densest confluence of highways in France after Paris: * Autoroute A27 : Lille - Tournai - Brussels / Liège - Germany / * Autoroute A23 : Lille - Valenciennes / * Autoroute A1 : Lille - Arras - Paris / Reims - Lyon / Orléans / Le Havre / * Autoroute A25 : Lille - Dunkirk - Calais - England / North Belgium / * Autoroute A22 : Lille - Antwerp - Netherlands. A sixth one — the proposed A24 — will link Amiens to Lille if built, but there is opposition to its route. AIR TRAFFIC Lille Lesquin International Airport is 15 minutes from the city centre by car (11 km). In terms of shipping, it ranks fourth, with almost 38,000 tonnes of freight which pass through each year. WATERWAYS Lille is the third largest French river port after Paris and Strasbourg. The river Deûle is connected to regional waterways with over 680 km of navigable waters. The Deûle connects to Northern Europe via the River Scarpe and the River Scheldt (towards Belgium and the Netherlands), and internationally via the Lys River (to Dunkerque and Calais).
T h e Opéra de Lille is a theater-style neo-classical opera house, built from 1907 to 1913 and officially inaugurated in 1923. In 1903 fire destroyed the previous Lille opera house, which had been designed by Lille architect Michael Joseph Lequeux and built in 1785. For the replacement city officials chose architect Louis Marie Cordonnier by competition. Cordonnier’s Belle Époque design features an elaborate pediment relief by sculptor Hippolyte Lefèbvre, and two flanking bas-relief panels Alphonse-Amédée Cordonnier and Hector Lemaire. The interior includes work by sculptor Edgar-Henri Boutry. In July 1914, while not quite completed, the Germans occupied Lille during World War I and commandeered much of the furniture and equipment of the Opéra to furnish the other opera in Lille, the Theatre Sebastopol. After four years of occupation, the building was restored and opened its doors again in 1923 for a rededication as the Grand Theater and a “première française”. In 1998 the theater’s physical condition required an emergency closure, in mid-season. Renovations evolved into a more ambitious project to improve the building’s functional capabilities for the public and for performing artists. This project was complete in time for Lille’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2004.