Last modified: 2004-07-31 by ivan sache
Keywords: nord | bergues | sint winksbergen | lions: 2 (black) |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors
by Olivier Touzeau
The city of Bergues (Dutch, Sint Winksbergen; 4,306 inhabitants) is located near the French-Belgian border, c. 10 km south-east of Dunkirk. Bergues is a typical Flemish city surrounded by an elaborated system of fortifications and canals derived from the river Colme. The city is nicknamed "the other Flemish Bruges".
During the Gallo-Roman times, the region of Bergues was inhabited by the Menapians. It was evangelized in the VIIth century by saint Winoc, today the local patron saint of millers. The first city walls were erected in the VIIIth-IXth centuries, surrounding the village build on the Groenberg (Green hill), a small hill emerging from swamps. The Saint Winoc's abbey was founded on the Groenberg by count Baudoin la Belle Barbe (the Beutiful Beard) in 1022.
Bergues was a wealthy city famous for its woollen cloth and allowed the control of the hinterland of the port of Dunkirk. Accordingly, the city was besieged, seized and trashed several times during its long history. Charles V's troops trashed Bergues on 3 September 1383; in 1588, the city was seized once again by the French, who nearly razed it. In the XVIIth century, Bergues was seized by the French in 1646, by the Spaniards in 1651, and again by the French (Turenne) in 1658. Bergues was retroceded to Spain in 1659 and definitively incorporated to France in 1668 by the treaty of Aachen / Aix-la-Chapelle, which ended the Wars of Devolution. The city was severely damaged and burned in June 1940 during the German attack of France.
The oldest part of today's fortifications date back to the IXth century,
when count Gui de Dampierre built a wall and a tower to protect the
northern access to the city. The fortification system took its
definitive shape under the Burgundian rule. Duke Philippe II le Hardi
(1341-1404) merged the two former circular city walls into a single,
eight-shaped wall. The fortifications were revamped by duke Philippe III
le Bon (1397-1467) in 1435, and restored again in 1537 and 1543.
During the Spanish rule, most of the city walls were rebuilt from
scratch by architect Louis Rosseel in 1581-1582.
After the incorporation to France, Louis XIV asked Vauban to improve the foritfication system around Bergues. Vauban added the St. Winoc and Hondschoote "crowns" to protect the eastern and northern access to the city, respectively. The medieval walls, including the Neckerstor and the gate of Bierne were reinforced. The cumulated length of the city walls is 5,300 m.
Inside the fortifications, the Square Tower belonging to the former St. Winoc's abbey was reinforced in the XIVth century. The Pointed Tower was built beside the old tower in 1812. The two towers were used as a seamark by seamen approaching the port of Dunkirk. The abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution but its library was preserved, including 72 manuscripts from the XIIth-XIVth century, 12 incunabula and 6,980 printed books.
A pawnshop was founded in Bergues in 1630 by Wencenslas Coebergher
(1557-1634), a painter, architect, economist and egnineer who
contributed to the draining of the swamps in the region. The pawnshop
was closed in 1848 and houses today the municipal museum, whose
masterpiece is a painting by Georges de la Tour (XVIIth century).
Like most Flemish cities, Bergues was granted municipal rights in the XVIth century and built a belfrey to symbolize the municipal independence. The belfrey was dynamited by the Germans in 1944 and rebuilt in 1961 by Paul Gelis, who kept its original shape but simplified the decoration. Like most of the houses of the old town, the belfrey is made of ochre-yellow bricks called "sand bricks". It is surmonted by a Flemish lion, which watches the Place de la République from 54 m.
The belfrey houses a peal of 50 bells, weighing 6,500 kg, which is played every Monday at 11:00 during the market.
The facade of the city hall is decorated with a bust of Lamartine, the poet and politician who saved the French Tricolor flag in 1848. Lamartine, whose brother-in-law was from the neighbouring city of Hondschoote, was deputy of Bergues from 1833 to 1839.
Source: D. & N. Markey's website
Bergues is famous for its cheese and also for its sausage. In 1625, a
Basque pork butcher from Irun married a Flemish woman from Bergues and
settled in the city. The man, called Desmadryl (probably a defromation
of his original name), is also said to have repair the belfrey.
The Desmadryl pork butchery is located on the main square of the city since 1772. In the past, it was known as the Peulmut shop, because the old Adolphe Desmadry used to sit by the window on the first floor of the shop. The old man wore a nightcap, in Flemish a peulmuts.
In the 1960s, Jules Leys-Desmadry, the last pork butcher from the Desmadry family, ceded the secrete recipe of the genuine Bergues sausage to Michel Helé, who was recently succeded by Hervé Vermeersch. On Carnival's day, the mayor of Bergues stands on the balcony of the city hall and throws down Bergues sausage and cheese to the enthusiastic crowd.
Source: G. Vereeck's website
Ivan Sache, 10 April 2004
The municipal flag of Bergues, as seen locally by Olivier Touzeau, is not hoisted over the city hall but on several shops. It might therefore not be official.
The flag is a square banner of the municipal arms.
Ivan Sache, 10 April 2004
The municipal coat of arms of Bergues blazons as (GASO):
Parti : au premier d'argent au lion contourné de sable lampassé de gueules, au second d'argent à la fasce de sable et au franc-quartier d'or chargé d'un lion aussi de sable et d'une bordure de gueules.
Per pale first argent a lion sable langued gules second argent a fess sable a canton or a lion sable a border gules.
Ivan Sache, 10 April 2004