Lille, in northern France, is the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille, and Lyon. According to an old legend, in 620 A.D., Salvert, prince of Dijon, was making his way to England with his pregnant wife, Ermengart. While travelling through Flanders, they fell into a trap laid by the local lord, the giant Phinart. The prince and his men were killed, but Ermengart fled and found refuge at a hermit's cottage in the forest, where she gave birth to a son. Upon her death, she entrusted the baby to the hermit. He baptized him with his own name, Lydéric.When, as a youth, Lydéric discovered the truth about his origins, he set out to search for Phinart. He found him at the court of Dagobert I at Soissons, and killed him in a duel to avenge his parents’ deaths. Phinaert's lands were given to Lydéric, and he founded the city of Lille in 640 A.D.
In the Middle Ages, the city became the centre of the textile industry with
an important cloth fair. Originally ruled by the Count of Flanders, the city
was successively ruled by France, Burgundy, and even by Spain when it
controlled the area known as the Spanish Netherlands (i.e. Belgium, Luxemburg,
and part of northern France) and became part of France in the 17th century. Evidently
the citizens did not take kindly to this until some important public works
endeared them to the king, but even then many of them continued to consider
themselves as Flemish, and not French.
In the aftermath of the French Revolution, the Austrians who were occupying
the United Provinces (Belgium and the Netherlands) laid siege to the city. The
city resisted despite many buildings being damaged by artillery, and the Austrians left after eight days. Some buildings in Lille
still have cannonballs embedded in their walls, dating from this time! (see the black 'dots' on this photo)
of the Goddess’ was erected in the Grand Place in 1842 to commemorate this
Lille was occupied by the Germans during the two World Wars, and in the
post-war years, its prosperity suffered with the decline of the textile and
mining industries. In more recent years, it has become a transport hub, linked to
Paris, Brussels and London by the high-speed train network. Modern employment
has changed from manufacturing and mining to service industries, and it has become
an important retail and financial centre.
Each September it holds La
Braderie, a huge street fair and market, with craft and food stalls, street
theatre, live music, and people in traditional costumes. In recent years, it
has also provided a Christmas market with a variety of stalls and displays in
the Grand Place and adjoining streets.