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Arras (Municipality, Pas-de-Calais, France)

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Last modified: 2021-01-11 by ivan sache
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Flag of Arras - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 29 June 2020


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Presentation of Arras

The municipality of Arras (41,555 inhabitants in 2018: 1,163 ha;), located at the confluence of rivers Scarpe and Crinchon River, is the historic capital of Artois.

Established during the Iron Age, the town of Arras was first known as Nemetocenna, which is believed to have originated from the Celtic word *nemeton, meaning "a sacred space".
By 843, Arras was the seat of the County of Artois, which became part of the Royal domain in 1191. The first mention of the name Arras appeared in the 12th century. Some hypothesize it is a contraction of Atrebates, a Belgic tribe of Gaul and Britain that used to inhabit the area.
The town was granted a commercial charter by the French crown in 1180 and became an internationally important location for banking and trade. The wool industry of Arras, established in the 4th century, became of great importance during the Middle Ages. By the 11th century Arras was the leading city and trading hub of the wool industry. By the 14th century Arras was particularly well-known for its production of fine tapestries.

Ownership of the town was 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. 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. 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. It was eventually bequeathed to the Spanish Habsburgs as part of the Spanish Netherlands. Louis XIII reconquered Arras in 1640; the town officially became part of France in 1659.

During most of the First World War, Arras was about 10 kilometers away from the front line, and a series of battles were fought around the city and nearby: the Battle of Arras (1914), the Battle of Arras (1917) and the Second Battle of the Somme (1918). By the end of World War I, the city was so heavily damaged that three-quarters had to be rebuilt.
In the early stages of the second World War, during the invasion of France in May 1940, the city was the focus of a major British counterattack, the Battle of Arras. Although the Allies initially made gains, they were repulsed by German forces and forced to withdraw to avoid encirclement. Arras was then occupied by the Germans and 240 suspected French Resistance members were executed in Arras citadel. On 3 September 1944, the city was entered and liberated by the British Guards Armoured Division.

Olivier Touzeau, 29 June 2020


Flag of Arras

The flag of Arras (photo, photo, photo) is white with the town's logo.

Olivier Touzeau, 21 May 2020