10 largest cities in France




Albert (formerly Encre or Ancre) is a French commune located in the department of the Somme in the Hauts-de-France region. It is the third city of the department by its population after Amiens and Abbeville. Albert is the seat of the community of communes of the Poppy Country and the main industrial city of the Anchor valley.



Notre Dame Cathedral

The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières d'Albert (Somme) was built at the end of the 19th century. Its original architecture makes it a major building in the religious heritage of Picardy, classified as a historical monument.

Notre-Dame-de-Brebières has been one of the high places of Marian worship in Picardy since the 11th and 12th centuries. At the end of the nineteenth century, the pilgrimage experienced a renewed fervor with the whole of Marian devotion (as in La Salette and Lourdes).

The Notre-Dame de Brebières basilica was built at the instigation of Anicet Godin, priest-dean of Albert from 1882 to 1913. It replaced the parish church, built after the fire of 1660 and completed in 1705. It became too small to accommodate the growing number of faithful due to the development of the city during the industrial revolution, it was decided to destroy the existing church and build a new one.

In 1895, at the time of its inauguration, Pope Leo XIII conferred the honorary title of minor basilica on the new church. He specified in his papal bull his ambition for the basilica: "Albert would have to become the Lourdes of the North".

The construction of the basilica required the concreting of the bed of the Anchor which runs under the choir over a length of twenty-seven meters. The elevation was carried out on the plans of the architect Edmond Duthoit from 1885 to 1897. After his death in 1889, the management of the work was entrusted to Henri Bernard, his main collaborator. The steeple-porch, 62 m high, was surmounted by a dome bearing a golden statue of the Virgin which rises to 82 m, the work of Albert Roze, sculptor from Amiens.

Albert's basilica was completely destroyed during the Great War. In 1915, a shell hit the dome supporting the statue, which bowed, but remained in a precarious and impressive balance. This event gave birth to a legend: “When the Virgin of Albert falls, the War will end. Said Hairy and Tommies. The photograph of this destroyed basilica and its “Leaning Virgin” was sent across the world by soldiers to their families - as a postcard - and contributed to its global fame. In April 1918, during the last German offensive, the Battle of the Kaiser, the basilica was destroyed by shells and the statue of the Golden Virgin crashed to the ground.

The basilica was rebuilt identically by the architect Louis Duthoit, son of Edmond Duthoit, between 1927 and 1931. The interior decoration partly resumed the original decoration.

The bell tower has been redone identically. A replica of the “Golden Virgin”, also by Albert Roze, was re-installed during the reconstruction of the building from 1927 to 1929. The roof of the dome and the gilding of the statue were recently restored.

Centenary of the Battle of the Somme
As part of the ceremonies commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the American singer Barbara Hendricks gave a Peace Concert accompanied by the Orchester de Picardie, on Friday July 1, 2016 at 10 p.m. at the Basilica of Albert.

Architecture and decor
The Notre-Dame de Brebières basilica is an example of a neo-Byzantine style building. This vast brick building was built from 1885 to 1897 by the Picard Edmond Duthoit, architect and orientalist who defined his work as follows:
“The architecture of Albert's Church is the synthesis of what I have seen: my bell tower is a minaret from Tlemcen or Seville. On the palaces of Siena or Florence, we see consoles which terribly resemble the cornices of the new church; those of the apses, with their semi-domes and their corbels, are from Syria, the upper skeleton is found in all the basilicas of Syria, Italy, Sicily and Corsica. The large horseshoe arches, which separate the aisles from the main nave, are taken from the great mosque of Tlemcen. The Kairouan mosque provided me with the arrangement of the cutters and capitals, my portal will recall the arrangements that I admired at the Tunis mosque. Finally, I will be happy that when looking at the decoration of the apse, the tourist thinks of that of the church of Monreale, near Palermo. I cannot give a name to this mixture; all these elements that compose it are good: may their combination not be unpleasant to visitors !. "

The main facade is formed by a porch with three portals located under the bell tower.
The floor and the facade are decorated with mosaics.

The bell tower-porch rises to 76 m. Its upper part is composed of a dome bearing a virgin covered with 40,000 gold leaves, six meters high (work of Albert Roze), presenting the Child Jesus: the arms of the child form a cross. The dome was made in the Monduit workshops. An outdoor gallery located sixty meters above the ground allows you to walk around the bell tower and offers a remarkable view of the city and its surroundings.
The plan of the building is reminiscent of that of the first Christian basilicas with a large apse formed by a raised chapel and framed by two apses resting on either side on the transept also terminated on the north and south by two apsidioles. .
The crossing of the transept is surmounted by a small quadrangular lantern tower.
A five-bay nave flanked by two side aisles extends the building. Each of the bays communicates with the aisles which open on each side onto five chapels.
A decorated frame and a coffered ceiling replace the traditional vaults.
The length of the building is 70 m, its width is 35 m at the transept. The ceiling height is 23 m.



A tumulus known under the name of Minon Castel, located near Albert, coming from Amiens, tends to prove the existence of human occupation of the site of Albert, in the Neolithic period.

The Roman road linking Samarobriva (Amiens) to Bagacum Nerviorum (Bavay) passed through the site on which the city of Albert was built. Substructions near the Roman road were found 2 km from downtown Albert.

Middle Ages
There is no trace, in ancient texts, of the existence of a place called Ink, before the High Middle Ages.

Early Middle Ages, Encre comes out of anonymity
In 1840, a group of tombs was discovered in the communal cemetery during work carried out to enlarge the floor of the church, but did not give rise to any archaeological observation. During the construction of the basilica, at the level of the bell tower and the portal, Émile Comte, assisted by Charles Joseph Pinsard, excavated about fifteen tombs in 1894. More than ten objects: bronze basin and handles, two ceramics , two spears, an iron dagger and knives, a copper wire necklace and iron beads, two casket fragments were dated to the 7th and 7th century, other isolated objects from the same period were discovered in the cemetery .

The Valois
Until the end of the fourteenth century, kings often united the States-General in Compiègne. In 1358, the regent Charles reunited the States of Langue d'oïl there to re-establish royal authority in the face of Etienne Marcel's intrigues. In 1374, he began the construction of a new castle on the current site of the Palace. Compiègne is now a royal residence and court residence, and receives the visit of many princes.
Compiègne saw the birth of Pierre d'Ailly, cardinal-bishop of Cambrai, chancellor of the University of Paris, diplomat who helped put an end to the Great Western Schism, author of several scholarly works. One of his works enabled Christopher Columbus to prepare for the discovery of America.

During the Hundred Years War, Compiègne was besieged and taken several times by the Burgundians. She embraced for some time the party of the King of England. But from the coronation of Charles VII, she once again becomes faithful to the King of France. The most memorable of these sieges is that of 1430 when Joan of Arc, rushing to the city to defend it, fell on May 23 into the hands of the Burgundians, during an outing on the right bank of the Oise and was sold to the English. This siege resulted in extensive destruction as a result of the bombardments, a decline in the population and impoverishment of the inhabitants. The wars led by Louis XI still result in additional charges (fortifications, housing for warriors), heavier taxes and forced loans, and it will be necessary to wait for the reign of Charles VIII to undertake reconstruction, relaunch the activity and regain the pre-war population.

Since then, the kings of France continued to reside often in Compiègne and made a habit of stopping there on their return to be crowned in Reims, as Charles VII had done, accompanied by Joan of Arc, in 1429.

The restoration of Compiègne was marked by the reconstruction of the town hall during the first third of the sixteenth century, symbol of the city. The belfry is decorated with three Picantins representing English, Flemish and Burgundian prisoners who strike the hours on the bells.

Kings still made short stays from Francis I to Henry IV. Compiègne was a royal city, its deputy governors were appointed with the advice of the king, taxes, duties and loans were due to the king and the passing regiments were housed with the inhabitants. During the wars of religion, Compiègne remained Catholic, faithful to the royalty and in return benefited from some advantages from the sovereigns. The Edict of Compiègne of 1547 reserving for secular courts the judgment of Protestants as soon as there is a public scandal, is one of the first stages of the repression against the Huguenots.

The population and administration of Compiègne in 1627
The royal administration is in Compiègne, a city of 8,000 inhabitants, according to Arthur de Marsy's census, and in the vicinity of the city, which is not very important, as indeed in all the cities of the kingdom.


A few notables (doctors, surgeons, etc.) are classified among them. On the other hand, merchants, industrialists, tavern keepers and craftsmen are classified in another category: Businesses and various industries. This category extends to mariners and ploughmen, winegrowers and gardeners.

The first order is also classified separately. Arthur de Marsy, author of a census in 1627 Marsy gives only the figures of the members of the secular clergy by parish:
- Saint-Jacques: 12;
- Saint-Antoine: 6;
- Saint-Germain: 2;
- Saint-Jehan le Petit: 1.

Of the 83 schoolteachers, 29 are clergymen. But the number of regular clergy in the institutions remains the great unknown. The number of the poor and that of the beggars is 320, a small figure, if we compare it with the situation of Châteauroux which in 1789 with 7,000 inhabitants had to help 3,000 unfortunate people mainly from the Massif Central. On the other hand, it is higher than that of the poor around 1760 in Morlaix, a town of 10,000 inhabitants which is 100.

The Bourbon
The first and second treaties were concluded there with the Republic of Genoa for the reunification of Corsica with France in 1756 and 1764. In 1770, Louis XV and the Dauphin welcomed Marie-Antoinette to the castle when she arrived in France.

Revolution and Empire
In 1790, the department of Oise is after the dismantling of the former province of Île-de-France. In 1794, the sixteen Carmelite sisters of Compiègne were tried and guillotined. Georges Bernanos was inspired by their history to write his play Dialogues des Carmélites.

In 1804, the Château de Compiègne joined the imperial domain. King Charles IV of Spain, having just abdicated, was lodged there by Napoleon from June 18 to September 18, 1808. In March 1810, the Emperor met Marie-Louise of Austria there for the first time.

On March 15, 1814, the Prussians attacked the city via the Noyon road.

Restoration, Second Empire and Third Republic
On August 9, 1832, the marriage of Louise-Marie d'Orléans (daughter of King Louis-Philippe I) to the King of the Belgians, Leopold I, was celebrated at the château. Napoleon III stayed there frequently from 1856 to 1869 to enjoy the Forest of Compiègne

Compiègne hosts the golf events of the 1900 Summer Olympics on the grounds of the Société des sports de Compiègne.

First World War
General Pétain moved his headquarters to the castle from April 5, 1917 to March 25, 1918. Several allied conferences were held there. On March 25, 1918, during the spring offensive, a crisis meeting brought together Georges Clemenceau, Raymond Poincaré, Louis Loucheur, Henri Mordacq, Ferdinand Foch and Philippe Pétain in the town, in order to organize the defense of the front line with the British.

On November 11, 1918, in the national forest of Compiègne, in a wagon in the middle of a forest, near Rethondes, the Armistice of 1918 was signed between France and Germany in the presence of Marshal Foch and General Weygand.

Second World War
In the same place, in the meantime arranged in a clearing known as the Rethondes clearing or the Armistice clearing, and in the same wagon as in 1918, is signed the Armistice of June 22, 1940 between France, represented by the delegation sent by Marshal Pétain and chaired by General Huntziger, and Germany represented by Marshal Keitel. Adolf Hitler and many German dignitaries were present the day before, the inaugural day of the Armistice negotiations.

During the Occupation, the Nazis set up a transit and internment camp from June 1941 to August 1944 in Royallieu. The first train of political deportees left the Royallieu camp for that of Auschwitz on July 6, 1942. At this location on February 23, 2008, the “Memorial of the internment and deportation” was inaugurated.

One of the very first armed groups of the French resistance, the “groupe de Compiègne”, was born in the Oise in February 1941. Allied to Combat Zone Nord, its militants were mostly arrested as of March 3, 1942 and deported. in Germany from where very few have returned.

Post-World War II
The creation of the Picardy region by decree of June 2, 1960), incorporates the department of Oise. Let us recall that until 1790, year of the dismantling of the old provinces of France, Compiègne was located in the French royal domain or province of Île-de-France and not in Picardy.

In 1972, the University of Technology of Compiègne was created.