10 largest cities in France




Beauvais is a French commune, prefecture of the department of Oise, in the Hauts-de-France region. With its 56,254 inhabitants (last census in 2017, an increase of 3.62% compared to 2012), Beauvais is the main town of the department and is the eighth in the region. It is located north of the Paris Basin, on the banks of the Thérain, a tributary of the Oise. Its inhabitants are called the Beauvaisiens.

Beauvais is famous for its Saint-Pierre de Beauvais Cathedral, of Gothic architecture, with the highest nave in France and the tallest Gothic choir in the world, still unfinished, but typical of the heyday of Gothic art in France. Most of the works in the cathedral date from the 17th century.



The arms of Beauvais are emblazoned as follows: “Gules au pale argent”, that is to say a vertical silver stake on a red background.

Palus ut hic fixus constans and firma manebo. (Such a constant and firm staked stake will remain.) Is the motto appearing on the first coat of arms of the city.

These symbols refer to the swampy terrain on which the city is built requiring the use of wooden pillars to support the foundations of the buildings.

Prehistory and Antiquity
The first traces of visits to the Beauvais site were dated to 65,000 BC. Camp fortified by the Romans, Beauvais takes, in the 1st century, the name of Caesaromagus: the Market of Caesar.

Become Bellovacum, the Gallo-Roman city was destroyed again by the barbarian invasions around 275. It was rebuilt in the 4th century and provided with fortifications. The ramparts form a rectangle measuring 260 m by 400 m, which protects an area of ​​10 ha. The city is open to the east by the Porte du Châtel and to the west by the Porte du Limaçon. Each corner is occupied by an imposing square tower, only one of which is still visible today near the cathedral, a special paving has been laid to indicate the location of the ramparts and towers. Every 20 meters, protruding towers reinforced the walls.

In 328, Emperor Constantine I, who had authorized the practice of Christianity, visited the veterans of his army in the castrum of Bellovacis. It is the beginning of the Christianization of the region, and the source of the power of the bishops of Beauvais.

Middle Ages
From the beginning of the Middle Ages, the authority of the bishops of Beauvais grew at the same time as the new faith grew. The bishopric of Beauvais is considered a position which is all the more prestigious as it benefits from considerable income. Beauvais is at a crossroads of trade routes and, what is more, the bishop combines religious and political powers as bishop-count. This title makes him the true master of the city because he is one of the 12 peers of France, the most important people in the medieval hierarchy, bringing together the six ecclesiastical peers (the two other bishops-counts, the three bishops-dukes) and the six lay peers (three dukes and three counts) of the peerages of France, just below the king.

In 1096, Renaud de Beauvais took part in the first crusade. His name appears in the Fifth Hall of the Crusades of the Palace of Versailles.

The commune was created very early, in the eleventh century. It becomes prosperous and gradually acquires rights to promote its industry. Pragmatic, she regularly sided with the King of France against the bishop and relied on textiles to establish her financial power. At that time, Beauvais cloth was exported to the East and workshops multiplied. As part of a “League” of fifteen “draping towns”, Beauvais is its third pole in order of importance. Craftsmen work all kinds of wool, including the finest, imported from London. The corporations are enriched with more and more diversified trades: dyers, finishers, shearers, dressers… A group of 80 families govern the workers. The economic growth of Beauvais was therefore important: it was, from that time, a rich city close to its golden age. The mayors of this period are mostly from the narrow circle of these merchants. The hierarchy is strict and social quarrels subject to the authority of the king who is responsible, if necessary, to constrain the bishop. From this period dates the Lower Work, which, if it is indeed the old Carolingian cathedral, is not the very first "cathedral" built in Beauvais. Thanks to excavations, we have been able to date its construction from the second half of the tenth century. The Lower Work included various contemporary annexes of the church. Frescoes were to animate its walls. Various fragments have been found, including a man's head, of remarkable quality. A rare witness in France of Carolingian architecture still preserved, the building was built according to the techniques of the time, with Gallo-Roman uses.


At the same time, the mendicant orders appear, whose convents rise to the east of the city, in the middle of the working-class district. It is around this time that the Saint-Lazare and Saint-Antoine awkwardnesses date. Initially devoid of goods, these orders gradually grow richer and play a significant role in the city.

The economic boom experienced by Beauvais during the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth century corresponded to an intense artistic life. The sites are multiplying. The Saint-Etienne church, located near the main square, was completed around 1220, and shortly after the work of the Gothic cathedral began. In 1225, Bishop-Count Milon de Nanteuil (also protagonist of a hard conflict with King Saint Louis from 1232, whose episcopal power was weakened) launched the project of what would become the emblematic monument of Beauvais: Saint-Pierre cathedral. This gigantic work was to exceed in height the cathedrals of all the neighboring towns. Gothic splendor, it will surpass with its 48 meters anything that had been done before. The choir and the eastern aisle of the transept were completed in 1272. In 1284, the upper parts of the right bays of the choir collapsed. Reconstruction lasts until the middle of the fourteenth century, but the work stops during the Hundred Years War. The transept, a masterpiece of flamboyant architecture, was created in the sixteenth century by the architect Martin Chambiges under the leadership of the count-bishop Louis de Villiers de L'Isle-Adam. A huge spire over 150 m high was subsequently erected at the crossing of the transept, instead of building a nave that would consolidate the monument. But, barely finished, the spire collapsed in 1573. The nave was never built for lack of funds. The church measures 72.50 m in length for an extraordinary vault height of almost 48.50 m, the highest of Gothic architecture in Europe. Even unfinished, the building remains one of the high places of religious heritage.

Saint-Pierre Cathedral was renowned in the Middle Ages for its rich chapter library. The foundation is attributed by Antoine Loysel, first to Bishop Odon I († 881), then to Roger I of Blois († 1022). We have kept for the eleventh century the mention of a bequest of fourteen books made by a certain Roscelinus grammaticus (apart from treatises on grammar and rhetoric, works by Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Stace). In the twelfth century, Chrétien de Troyes declared at the beginning of his Cligès that he found the story in a book in the Beauvais library. In his will dated November 2, 1217, Bishop Philippe de Dreux bequeathed all his law and theology books to the library. The construction of a new room for the library was decided in 1404 and completed in January 1417. An incomplete catalog from the fifteenth century containing 141 items has been preserved, but an old lost cartulary, containing a copy of this catalog and described in the eighteenth century. , reported 186 volumes. In the sixteenth century, the library was visited by several famous scholars (Jean du Tillet, Jacques Amyot, Antoine Loysel), but disorder and neglect entered the management, and loans not followed by restitution multiplied. In March-April 1664, Claude Joly, grandson of Antoine Loysel, established a summary catalog of 147 items. During the Revolution, no inventory was apparently drawn up. According to Henri Omont, in 1916, only about sixty manuscripts from this library were found.

In 1472, Charles the Bold, unsuccessfully laid siege to Beauvais. The conduct of Jeanne Hachette during this siege has remained famous. King Louis XI grants, by his letters patent, the privileges of the city, in particular those of women and girls. For the kingdom of Louis XI, the drapery industry of Beauvais remained very important46.

Old regime
In the 17th century, under the episcopates of Augustin Potier and his nephew and successor Nicolas Choart de Buzenval, Beauvais was a center of study and piety. The first bequeathed to his cathedral an important library of printed matter. The second, assisted by Canon Godefroy Hermant, made the city's bishopric and seminary a center of Jansenism. The historian Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont, in particular, was a student of the seminary and of Canon Hermant.


In 1664, a royal tapestry factory was set up in Beauvais, which then became an important “draping city” of the kingdom. More than half of its inhabitants then worked in textiles. His productions are famous throughout Europe, and other craftsmen benefit from this fame. The Manufacture reached its peak under the artistic direction of Jean-Baptiste Oudry, in the 18th century. Soon, "Indian" appeared on the market, a printed cotton fabric which quickly provided work for hundreds of workers, without however dethroning the wool trade.

Contemporary period
At the end of the 18th century, the decline of this busy city began. Beauvais remains loyal to textiles, while the industrial revolution is accelerating everywhere else. By concentrating on wool, brushing, food and tabletting, the local industry is missing out on important markets. The railway is established elsewhere, and does not stop there. At the start of the Second Empire, Beauvais was still in the era of the diligence, when the rail reached Rouen, Le Havre, Lille, Saint-Quentin. It was not until 1876 that the direct line to the capital opened. And it is also a period of architectural changes: the city opens, with the development of the boulevards, on the site of the old medieval rampart. Important public buildings were erected: the Hôtel-Dieu, the Lycée Félix-Faure, the train station. In the Faubourg Saint-Jacques, the slaughterhouses are built and benefit from a neat industrial architecture. In the main square, the statue of Jeanne Hachette was inaugurated in 1851 by Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.

The astronomical clock (1865-1868) of the cathedral hides under its Romano-Byzantine cabinet 12 meters high, a very complete mechanism due to Auguste Vérité.

As the urbanization movement continues outside the old center, a new element is introduced into architecture: the ceramics of which Beauvaisis is a producer. The facade of the Gréber factory is a very good example of this production. English-style houses, imitation seaside villas, Art Deco facades notably punctuate the Saint-André boulevards and the avenue Victor-Hugo.

In 1900, Beauvais had 20,000 inhabitants, twice as many as in 1850. But great fortunes and big bosses were scarce and the local bourgeoisie dominated the political scene.

During the First World War, Beauvais lived for four years the existence of a town in the rear, quite close to the front, an existence complicated by the vagaries of irregular supply.

In March 1918, the town hall became the headquarters of General Foch, it was there that he was entrusted with the supreme command of the allied armies, by the French, English and American governments.

Towards the end of the war, from April to June, the city was bombed eight times, resulting in the destruction of 80 houses. On the day of the armistice, the city deplores 719 deaths in combat, and 13 civilians killed during the bombardments.

In the interwar period, Beauvais continued to live off its past activities, but the economic crisis precipitated the decline of the city, and more generally of Beauvaisis. As soon as the Second World War broke out, Beauvais regained the role of city-hospital that it had known between 1914 and 1918. But, at the beginning of June 1940, the city was attacked by the Luftwaffe, whose bombs ignited a gigantic fire. Two-thirds of the city is in flames, half of the houses destroyed. The martyred city, which has lost almost all the vestiges of its past, sinks into misery and privation.