Amiens

Amiens is a city in northern France, 120 km (75 mi) north of Paris and 100 km (62 mi) south-west of Lille. It is the capital of the Somme department in Hauts-de-France.

Amiens Cathedral, the tallest of the large, classic, Gothic churches of the 13th century and the largest in France of its kind, is a World Heritage Site.

The author Jules Verne lived in Amiens from 1871 until his death in 1905, and served on the city council for 15 years. Jules Verne Museum. The small but cosy Jules Verne Museum is well worth a visit for those who are interested in literature.

During December, the town hosts the largest Christmas market in northern France.

Amiens is known for a few local foods, including “macarons d’Amiens”, almond paste biscuits; “tuiles amienoises”, chocolate and orange curved biscuits; “pâté de canard d’Amiens”, duck pâté in pastry; “la ficelle Picarde”, an oven-baked cheese-topped crêpe; and “flamiche aux poireaux”, a puff pastry tart made with leeks and cream.

Antiquity

Amiens, the Roman Samarobriva, was the central settlement of the Ambiani, one of the principal tribes of Gaul, who were issuing coinage, probably from Amiens, in the 1st century BC. By tradition, it was at the gates of Amiens that Saint Martin of Tours, at the time still a Roman soldier, shared his cloak with a naked beggar. The prosperity of the city made it a target for barbarian tribes such as the Alans, the Burgundians or the Vandals. They conquered the city several times.

Middle Ages

During the 5th century, Chlodio rose to power among the Franks, and Merovech was elected in Amiens by his comrades in arms. Saint Honorius (Honoré) (d. 600 AD) became the seventh bishop of the city.Normans sacked the city 859 and again in 882. During the second sacking, the city’s cathedral was burned.During the early part of the 10th century, Count Herbert de Vermandois united the regions of Amiens, Vexin, Laon, and Reims.In 1095, the people of Amiens began to form a rough municipal organization. In 1113 the city was recognized by the King of France; the city was joined to the Crown of France in 1185.In 1264, Amiens was chosen as the seat of arbitrations when King Louis IX of France settled the conflict between King Henry III of England and his rebellious barons, led by Simon de Montfort. The arbitrations led to Louis deciding on the Mise of Amiens – a one-sided settlement in favor of Henry. This decision almost immediately led to the outbreak of the Barons’ War.In 1435 the city was among the possessions granted to Philip the Good of Burgundy by the Congress of Arras. It was re-acquired again by King Louis XI in 1477 after the death of Charles the Bold.

Renaissance and Industrial Era

In 1597, the Spanish soldiers disguised as peasants entered the city and mounted a surprise attack. After six months of siege, the forces of Henry IV regained control of the city and put an end to its autonomous gestion.During the 18th and 19th century, the textile tradition of Amiens became famous for its velours. The Cosserat family rose to prominence as one of the wealthiest of Amiens’ textile manufacturing families.In 1789 the provinces of France were dismantled and the territory was organised into departments. Much of Picardy became the newly-created department of Somme, with Amiens as the departmental capital.In November 1801, British and French delegates began discussing terms of peace in the Amiens Congress. On 25 March 1802, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the First French Republicsigned the Treaty of Amiens, putting an end to the Second Coalition against France. During the 19th century, Amiens began to feel the effects of the industrial revolution. The city walls were demolished, opening up space for large boulevards around the town centre. The Henriville neighborhood in the south of the city was developed around this time.In 1848, the first railway arrived in Amiens, linking the city to Boulogne-sur-Mer. After this time, the city began to grow beyond the river and into the surrounding hills.During the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, Somme was invaded by Prussian forces and Amiens was occupied. Early science fiction author Jules Verne took up residence in Amiens in 1871, having met his wife there at a wedding in 1856. He was later elected city councilman in 1888. In 1889, Jules Verne officiates the opening of the Amiens circus, including a courthouse, a police station and a museum dedicated to the history of Picardy.

The 20th century

Beginning in 1905, Victor Commont, called “the founding father of modern Prehistoric science,”performed important archaeological work in the Picardy area.

The First World War

After earlier bombardment of the city, the Battle of Amiens was the opening phase of the Hundred Days Offensive. This offensive led to the armistice which ended the war. Amiens is the town in which much of the book Birdsong by Sebastian Faulkes takes place.

The Second World War

The Picardy region was occupied by Nazi troops and several towns, Amiens included, suffered at least partial destruction by bombardment before being liberated.On 18 February 1944, British airplanes bombed the prison in Amiens as part of Operation Jericho. The raid was intended to aid the escape of members of the French Resistance and political prisoners being held there. In all, 258 prisoners escaped.

Post-War Amiens and the French cultural revolution

The city was rebuilt according to Pierre Dufau’s plans, with a focus on widening the streets to ease traffic congestion. These newer structures were primarily built of brick, concrete and white stone with slate roofs. The architect Auguste Perret designed the Gare d’Amiens train station and nearby Tour Perret.On 2 June 1960, the new region of Picardy was formed from the departments of Aisne, Oise and Somme.In May 1968, students in Amiens joined in a large-scale strike that began in Paris. Factory and the railway workers in the city joined them a few days later. Amiens was paralyzed by fighting between conservatives and leftist groups. After President Charles de Gaulle’s radio address on 31 May, his supporters demonstrated in the streets.The following October, the University of Amiens (Université d’Amiens) was founded on a campus in the southwestern suburbs of the city.The city suffered the loss of many jobs as manufacturing plants in the region closed during the late 1970s and 1980s. Despite the hardships, the city made an effort to renovate the degraded area of St-Leu during this time.

Amiens Cathedral

End of the 20th century to present day

The 1990s saw a great period of rebirth in the city. The St-Leu renovations were completed, and parts of the University were moved to the city center. The Vallée des Vignes neighborhood was developed in the south of the city, and large parts of the city center were converted to pedestrian areas.The Gare du Nord was renovated with a controversial new glass roof. The Tour Perret was renovated as well and a new cinema complex was built. The area around the train station began a reorganization. Amiens comprises a number neighbourhoods (“quartiers” in French) with their own characteristics, including St-Leu, St-Maurice, Henriville or Saint-Acheul.

Saint-Leu

St-Leu is a part of Amiens north of the town centre. Its has many older wooden and brick houses and several canals. It was a poor part of town, but since extensive renovation in the 1990s it has become popular with tourists and students as a pretty area with a high concentration of cafés, restaurants and night clubs. Local culture is offered by Chés Cabotans theatre (puppet shows in the Picard language) and ‘La Lune des Pirates’, a concert hall.Amiens University’s Faculty of Sciences and its Faculty of Law & Economics are located in Saint-Leu

Saint-Maurice

Situated in between the east of the citadel and the Madeleine cemetery, St-Maurice is one of the industrial parts of Amiens. It is a working-class area which is currently being renovated and rearranged. The walls of the town’s former factory of dye are now those of the École Supérieure d’Art et de Design (ESAD) as well as those of the Faculty of Arts. The École supérieure d’ingénieurs en électronique et électrotechnique (ESIEE) is in the same neighbourhood.

Henriville

The Henriville neighbourhood was mostly built during the 19th century after the demolition of the city wall. It lies at the south of the town-centre and gathers numerousbourgeois houses and a certain number of town houses such as Jules Verne’s house. Several examples of the architectural styles of the times like néoclassique, troubadour and néogothique, can be found there.

Saint-Acheul

This is where archeologic excavations have enabled to discover prehistoric rests, which have given the name of the area to a prehistorical era “Acheulean” (also spelled Acheulian, ). In St-Acheul also lies a famous 1914–1918 military cimetary. It comprises the so called “English neighbourhood” with typical English style houses. At the feet of this area lies the hortillonnages.

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