Cambrai and the Nord!!!

Here is another jewel of my belle France not much written on it yet have visited several times over the years.  As in previous post on Caudry, this is where the nordistes family goes for a trip, shopping, connections other than Lille. Cambrai is much closer to Caudry and we were day even for a day just shopping and sights. However, hardly ever took pictures and finally found some oldies but goodies would like to share and showcase more Cambrai. This might be long as do it all in one post bear with me ::)

Cambrai, is in the Nord department 59 of the Hauts de France region. This is a town very often by passed by visitors, pity it has a pack of architecture and history in it.As such very central as we always been there by car; it is 24 km from Douai, 29 km fromm Valenciennes, 36 km from Arras, 37 km from Saint Quentin, and the regional capital Lille is only 52 km away. Over the borders, Brussels is only 108 km, London is 280 km and the capital Paris only 160 km. 

Cambrai was built on the right bank of the Scheldt river. The river, of still very modest flow in Cambrai, played a capital role in the history of the city by ensuring multiple functions, in particular by allowing, since Antiquity, the transport of men and goods. However, it was undeveloped and crossed many marshes. It was only with the discovery of coal at Anzin in 1734 that the Scheldt river was widened and declared navigable in 1780 from Cambrai to the North Sea. The Scheldt is today the “Scheldt Canal” downstream from Cambrai.

Cambrai is located at the crossroads of two French highways, the A2 with the junction of the A1 at Combles on exit 14   coming from Paris. All the way to the Franco-Belgian border, opened in 1973, and the A26 from Calais to Troyes, opened in 1992. On the A26, exit 8 at Marquion from Calais and exit 9 at Masnières from Reims. We take the local D643 from Caudry to Cambrai. Cambrai is connected by direct trains TER Hauts de France to Lille, Douai, Valenciennes and Saint-Quentin. Cambrai is only linked to Paris by a single direct TER return trip. The city is located about 45 km from the Haute-Picardie TGV station: And the closest airport is that of Lille-Lesquin 60 km away. Locally the TUC Cambrésis public bus transport network of Cambrai and its agglomeration. More info here as never taken it:

A bit of history I like

 The Treaty of Verdun of 843, which shared Charlemagne’s empire, placed the county of Cambrésis in the kingdom of Lothaire. It will be attached to the Holy Roman Empire in 925. Consequently the Scheldt river becomes for eight centuries the border of the kingdom of France and the Empire. From the 15C to the 17C, Cambrai was an important cultural center, especially in the musical field Guillaume Dufay, one of the most famous musicians of 15C Europe, worked in Cambrai.

In 1630, Richelieu, wishing to counter the power of the Holy Roman Emperor and Spain, renewed the alliance of France with the United Provinces (low countries). The main effort of France must focus on the Spanish Netherlands, and a partition plan is established with the Dutch, France to receive Le Hainaut, Cambrésis, Artois, a large part of Flanders as well as the Luxembourg and the county of Namur. War was declared on Spain in 1635: a long series of wars ensued which, aggravated by subsistence crises and epidemics, would destroy the Cambrésis. By the treaty of Nijmegen signed on August 10, 1678 Spain abandons Cambrai, definitively annexed by France.

The city suffers from the French revolution, all did , and the others that followed in Europe and the Wordl. Most of the city’s religious buildings are demolished or ransacked. The peasants are also deeply affected by the death of King Louis XVI. From January 1793, trees of liberty were cut down throughout the region, while the parishioners refused to receive the sacraments of constitutional priests.  In 1914, the German army occupied the city, this occupation, which lasted four years, was marked by scenes of looting, requisitions and hostage arrests. From November 20 to December 17, 1917, the surroundings of the town of Cambrai were the scene of the Battle of Cambrai, which saw the massive use of tanks for the first time. In 1918, the Germans burned the center of the city before leaving it, destroying the city/town hall as well as the municipal archives. The WWII strikes Cambrai again. Adolf Hitler came to visit his troops stationed in Cambrai on June 2, 1940. The first American tanks entered the city on September 2, 1944.

What to see my photos and not all to see just the surface.

The Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Cathedral of Cambrai is both a basilica and a former metropolitan church . The old Cambrai cathedral having been destroyed during the French revolution, the episcopal seat was transferred in 1804 to the Church Abbey of the Holy Sepulcher, which dates from the end of the 17C. The new cathedral was representative of the style of the reign of Louis XIV, a compromise between baroque and classicism. The cathedral was further seriously damaged in the last months of WWI. The steeple received a shell which left a gaping hole in the middle of the structure which did not collapse. The will of the locals folks of Cambrai made it possible to survive a demolition.

The Notre Dame de Grâce Cathedral now houses in particular for the short list, the funeral monument to Fénelon, the work of David d’Angers; nine large grisailles trompe-l’oeil by the Antwerp painter Martin-Joseph Geeraerts; the bones of the bishops and archbishops of Cambrai, found under the old cathedral and today kept in the crypt; the icon of Our Lady of Grace, which an ancient tradition attributes to Saint Luke. Recalling the style of the icons of the Orthodox Church, it was given to Cambrai Cathedral in 1451 by Canon Fursy de Bruille, Archdeacon of Valenciennes, who himself had received it from Cardinal Jean Allarmet de Brogny, to whom a Patriarch of the Greek Church had handed over to the Council of Constance. The great organs instrument built by the Pierre Schyven d’Ixelles house in 1897. This organ, rebuilt by Auguste Convers in 1936, is of transitional symphonic aesthetics neo-classical, it excels in the romantic and modern repertoire, its favorite field. The current splendid organ case is the work of Aimé-Joseph Carlier. Note also the presence of a choir organ by Auguste Convers, also built in 1936.

The parish of Cambrai on the Cathedral:

The tourist office of the area of Cambrai on the Cathedral:

The Hôtel de Ville at Rue de Nice, was first constructed back in the 14C. The current building dating from Napoleon III and restored in the 1920s, retains a neoclassical facade. The Hôtel de Ville or city hall becomes the symbol of the era of the Great War or WWI, and that of the end of the Reconstruction of Cambrai. It is indeed the last building to be rebuilt. The walls of the antechamber of the marriage hall was done in a very Art Deco style by drawing colossal figures with geometric shapes on curved mosaic,and wrought iron decorations. The three panels illustrate the themes of work, peace and love, necessary for the reconstruction of the country. Formerly called “Maison de paix “ or house of peace, it is already mentioned in 1184; it was rebuilt in 1364 and enlarged in 1509 and 1559. The old city/town hall had a medieval and Renaissance facade. It was replaced in 1786 by a neo-classical building . The stone was not of good quality, and it must be rebuilt in 1877. Then, it was use the same model but here use the colossal order encompassing the two levels of elevation. The fire of 1918 did not spare it, its facade was restored but the buildings were rebuilt. The new building was inaugurated in 1932. The belfry of Cambrai. Formerly the bell tower of the Saint-Martin church, rue du Beffroi, the monument built in the 15th century became the belfry of Cambrai in 1550.


The city of Cambrai on the reconstruction history of the city hall:

The tourist office of the Cambrai region on the city hall:

The Place Aristide Briand. In the Middle Ages, the city developed from two poles: the old Gallo-Roman castrum (Place Fénelon) and Mont-des-Boeufs (the Citadel). Between these two areas, the square constitutes the center of commercial activities. A first town house was built there in the 14C, then enlarged before making way for a new city/town hall built in a neoclassical style in the 18C. In 1918, the square was completely devastated. Its irregular shape was then corrected and specifications were established regulating the construction of new buildings. Art Deco and Regionalism unfold there according to its prescriptions, giving the whole its homogeneity.


The tourist office of the Cambrai region on the Pl Aristide Briand:

The Mail Saint-Martin was created in 1926 by Pierre Leprince-Ringuet. He was the winner of the competition for the reconstruction of Cambrai,   and wanted this city, focused on trade, to be able to benefit from large spaces for holding fairs and festivities. Thus, in 1926, he created a wide avenue in order to enhance the belfry which was previously hidden behind the houses. Recent developments of water jets and flower boxes have made this Mail Saint-Martin a particularly popular artery by the locals and visitors alike.


The tourist office of the Cambrai region on the Saint Martin mail:

And there you go folks a bit long even for m standards but worth it for the memories in my life and the wonderful times spent in my beloved Nord. Cambrai is one of those towns, will see again part of family life in my belle France. Hope you enjoy the post and do visit!

And remember, happy travels ,good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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2 Comments to “Cambrai and the Nord!!!”

  1. Thank you for highlighting the qualities of Cambrai. I’m surprised you didn’t mention their famous candies. That’s what comes to my mind first 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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