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Abbeville

 

Abbeville is a French commune, sub-prefecture of the department of the Somme, in the Hauts-de-France region. With a population of 22,946 inhabitants in 2017, it is the 2nd commune of the department behind Amiens, and the 28th of the Hauts-de-France region. Former capital of Ponthieu, it was part of the province and then of the administrative region of Picardy until 2015. It is part of the regional natural park of the Baie de Somme Picardie Maritime.

 

Sights

Gothic Cathedral of St. Wulfram XV-XVII centuries

Cathedral of St. Wulfram is a former collegiate church located in Abbeville in the Somme department in France. Placed under the name of Saint Wulfram since the 12th century, it constitutes with the abbey of Saint-Riquier and the chapel of the Saint-Esprit de Rue one of the most beautiful specimens of flamboyant Gothic art in maritime Picardy. It is classified as a historical monument as a building on the 1840 list.

 

Origins of the monument
At the site of the collegiate church of Saint-Wulfram was originally a parish church under the name of Notre-Dame. In the 12th century, the Comte du Ponthieu, having brought there the relics of Saint Wulfram of Sens, also founded a chapter of twenty-six canons there. The church then took the name of Saint-Vulfran collegiate church.

The 15th and 16th century collegiate church
It was at the end of the fifteenth century (1488) that the collegiate church was built at the bottom of a valley with marshy soil, which was located at the time near an arm of the Somme. The nave was built from 1488 to 1539 and the choir between 1661 and 1663. Note, a particular orientation: the facade does not open to the west, but to the north.

An era of prosperity made it possible to realize the magnificent flamboyant Gothic decoration of this church.

The chapter of Saint-Wulfram wanted to own the most beautiful church in Ponthieu. To do this, he requested financial support from the King of France, the Count of Ponthieu and the city of Abbeville. The western part, started on June 7, 1488, was almost completed in 1502, which allowed the eastern facade to be cut.

On April 4, 1520, Jean Crétel, master mason of Tours-en-Vimeu, was responsible for supervising the construction of the building. The stones were extracted from the cliffs of Beaumetz and Pont-Rémy.

In 1524, a mass was celebrated in the second chapel. Until 1539, the pace of work accelerated. Unfortunately, the site lacked resources, which stopped the work. In the seventeenth century, an authorization was given to a brotherhood to enlarge its chapel, which slightly reduced the area of ​​the collegiate church.

In 1532 the towers were fit to accommodate the bells. In 1539, according to tradition, work was interrupted when the two towers, the spans of the main nave, the aisles and the six chapels were completed. A wall temporarily closed the nave and aisles to the east.

The wars of religion and the Spanish invasions brought the site to a halt. In 1621, the brotherhood of haberdashery obtained the resumption of work for the construction of the choir, the foundations of which had been started in 1573. But it was not until the beginning of Louis XIV's personal reign, from 1661 to 1663, that the choir was completed. In 1691, the three upper windows of the apse were decorated with stained glass. It was therefore not until the end of the seventeenth century that the eastern part of the collegiate church was completed.

The collegiate church during the contemporary era
During the Revolution, the Saint-Wulfram church became the temple of Reason and, on June 8, 1794, a feast was celebrated there in honor of the Supreme Being.

The building is classified as a historical monument. It appears on the List of historical monuments of 1840. In 1852, an alarming report by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc led, the building being communal property, the mayor of Abbeville to prohibit the exercise of worship there. Restoration campaigns began in the 1860s to ensure the solidity of the building. The diocesan architect François Céleste Massenot restored the chapels and the aisles of the nave.

At the start of the Second World War, during the Battle of France on May 20, 1940, Abbeville was shelled by German artillery, which started a violent fire. He destroyed a large part of the city and the collegiate church. The vault collapsed, only the beginning of the nave, the towers and the facade remained standing.

The building was restored and returned to worship in 1998.

Characteristics
Outside
Main facade
It rises on three floors with balusters. Three portals give access to three naves. A large bay illuminates the central nave between the twin bays of the towers. The carved gable is framed by two towers. The abundant sculpture around the portals does not strictly speaking follow a coherent story, it is the reflection of the devotion of the corporations which financed its realization.

Among the statues on the portals, we recognize, in the center, from left to right, Saint Wulfram, Saint Nicholas with the three children, Saint Firmin, patron of the coopers who donated the statue, and finally Saint Germain the Scotsman. On the tympanum, the statue of Christ has disappeared but the Trinity sits at the top of the gable. The arches depict episodes from the life of Christ. Scenes from the life of the Virgin and figures of apostles were carved on the wooden doors.

On the north portal, we recognize, on the left, the legend of Saint Eustace represented on the tympanum framed by a lion who and a wolf who carry his children; on the left, we see him thrown into the sea.

On the south portal, we recognize the statues representing the Assumption of the Virgin, Marie-Cléophas and Salomé with their children, all dressed in sumptuous Renaissance costumes. These statues executed in 1501 are the work of Pierre Lheureux, they were offered by the corporation of mercers.

 

The bell towers rise 55.80 m above the ground.

Side façades
The side façades are reinforced by piers and flying buttresses for the first part of the nave. The western walls of the unfinished transept are still visible with their flamboyant decor. The eastern part of the building, with the extension of the nave and aisles, as well as the choir, reinforced with buttresses, was built in the seventeenth century, in a much more sober style.

Interior
The nave
The nave, in its part of the fifteenth century, is relatively narrow (9.10 m wide), the vaults culminate at 31.7 m which gives an impression of high elevation (height / width ratio of 3.5 to 2, 8 for Amiens Cathedral). The large Gothic arcades rest on diamond-shaped pillars with prismatic moldings. The blind triforium is decorated with a balustrade and surmounted by high windows. The ribbed vaults with liernes and tiercerons are decorated with carved keys hanging from the arms of the donors who financed the construction of the building. It was extended in the seventeenth century in a much more sober style. The main portal is surmounted by a tribune. The 17th-century wooden preaching pulpit was restored and placed back in the nave in 2002.

The aisles
In each of the aisles are three chapels.

In the south aisle:
the Saint-Jean-Baptiste chapel where there is an altarpiece of the baptism of Jesus, in polychrome stone, the original of which dates from the Renaissance. The work was redone in 1849 by the Duthoit brothers. Below the statue of God the Father, on a phylactery was engraved the inscription: “Tu es filius meus dilectus”;
the chapel of Saint-Yves and Sainte-Anne has an altar dedicated to Saint Anne whose altarpiece from the beginning of the sixteenth century is kept at the Boucher-de-Perthes Museum. Above the altarpiece are the statues of Saint Nicholas, Saint Andrew and Saint Catherine of Alexandria on both sides. In front of the altarpiece, a painting of Saint Sebastian, dating from the seventeenth century, is a work by a pupil of the Italian painter Guido Reni. The painting and its golden frame were restored in 2013.
the Saint-Quiriace chapel where the 18th century Christ descended from the cross is located in a fire. The Art Deco style murals are the work of Victor-Ferdinand Bourgeois, dating from 1931.

Also in the south aisle:
the 18th century marble baptismal font;
a wooden statue of Saint-Jean-Baptiste dating from the sixteenth century, attached to a pillar;
a painting by Charles Gleyre entitled "Saint John receives the vision of the Apocalypse".

In the north aisle:
the Saint-Louis chapel, built in 1492 by the d'Ailly family, preserves a polychrome stone altarpiece representing the Nativity (end of the 15th - beginning of the 16th century). This altarpiece was largely redone in the 19th century by the Duthoit brothers. It was restored in 1994 by the Arcams workshops. It is framed by pilasters and columns adorned with lush carvings and designs. The whole is surmounted by three statues representing Christ surrounded by Saint Peter and Saint Paul. A statue of the Virgin and Child, in painted wood from the 17th century, has been placed in this chapel;
the Saints-Anges et Saint-Luc chapel preserves a 16th century bas-relief, restored in 1843, representing "The Adulterous Woman" and a 19th century altarpiece, made by the Duthoit brothers, representing the Last Judgment. These scenes carved in plaster have been placed in a seventeenth century frame;
the Saint-Firmin chapel in which there is a painting representing "Christ on the Mount of Olives", the work of Abbeville, Hermine Deheirain. This painting was donated to the collegiate church by King Louis-Philippe I, in 1837.

The choir
The choir was built in the seventeenth century, its woodwork disappeared during the bombing of May 20, 1940. It is vaulted with wood. The windows are decorated with stained glass windows by William Einstein. The high altar known as the “altar of Saint Wulfram” was made by the Duthoit brothers. It is decorated with sculpted scenes retracing the life of the saint.

The painted oak bust-reliquary of Saint Wulfram, from the 17th century, was restored and replaced in the choir of the collegiate church in 2013. A Christ on the cross, in polychrome wood, from the beginning of the 15th century, a statue of the Virgin à l'Enfant sur le serpent, from the 17th century, a lectern in the shape of an 18th century eagle complete the decoration of the choir.

A choir organ was placed in the collegiate church in 1961, replacing the tribune organ destroyed in 1940.

 

Belfry of the XIII century, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Currently, the building is home to the museum of Jacques Boucher de Perth, a renowned archaeologist and native of Abbeville. Finds of tools typical of the Early Paleolithic, made by him near the city in 1839-1848, gave the name to the Abbeville culture.
Gothic churches of the Holy Sepulcher, Notre Dame and Saint Gilles of the 15th-19th centuries
Church of St. Jacques 1868-1876 in the neo-Gothic style
The building of the municipal theater in 1914
Chateau Bagatelle of the 18th century with a park

 

History

The first mention of Abbeville dates back to the 9th century. At that time, it belonged to the Abbey of Saint-Riquier, then went to the Counts of Ponthier. Subsequently, along with the entire county of Ponthier, several times changed his lords from noble French houses, until he moved to the Castilian house and became part of the dowry of Eleanor of Castile, when in 1272 she married the English king Edward I.

Until 1435, the city was alternately owned by England and France, until, according to the Treaty of Arras, Abbeville and other cities on the Somme fell to the Dukes of Burgundy. In 1477, Abbeville was annexed by Louis XI and has remained in French hands ever since. In 1514, the wedding ceremony of King Louis XII and Mary Tudor, daughter of the English king Henry VII, took place here.

Abbeville gained importance in the 18th century, when the royal Van Robais manufactory was opened here, one of the first large industrial enterprises in France. Voltaire wrote about her, as well as about the cases of religious intolerance here. In particular, he mentioned the story of a poor young man, the Chevalier de la Barra, who was executed in Abbeville in 1766 on charges of impiety (according to Voltaire, he just did not properly welcome the religious procession, although a number of witnesses considered the story more complicated).

Rear Admiral Amedey Courbet was born in Abbeville, who became a national hero of France during the Franco-Chinese war of 1884-1885. Courbet died in the Pescadores in 1885, shortly after the end of the war, and was buried in Abbeville. The central square of the city was renamed into the square of Admiral Courbet, and a monument to the admiral in the Baroque style was erected in the center of the square. During the Second World War, it was seriously damaged.

On September 12, 1939, an Anglo-French conference was held in Abbeville, at which it was decided to refuse Poland's assistance in the fight against the Germans. After five years - in September 1944 - it was just liberated by the Poles and a tank division under the command of General Stanislav Machk.

In 1940, German troops under the command of von Kleist reached the English Channel in the Abbeville region, cutting off British-French forces in northern France. This marked the turning point of the Battle of France and led to the defeat of the Allied forces.