Last modified: 2004-04-17 by ivan sache
Keywords: nord | estaires | stegers | cross (red and white) |
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by Pascal Vagnat
The municipality of Estaires (Dutch, Stegers; 6,000 inhabitants) is located on the river Lys (Dutch, Leie).
The area around Estaires was conquered by Julius Caesar in 56 BP.
A city called Minariacum was built around a ford by which an
important Roman way crossed the Lys. The name of Minariacum
might come from Minor Aqua (low waters). The ancient ford is
now the bridge of Estaires.
In 766, a place named Stegras was mentioned among the possessions of the St. Waast's abbey in Arras. The name of the place was later changed to Stegers and eventually to Estaires. Stegras might come from Celtic steer, a fordable river, or Flemish steg, a wooden bridge.
In 1096, Lord Jehan of Estaires went to the First Crusade (1096-1099) with Godfrey of Bouillon. Jehan's arms are the source of the current municipal flag of Estaires. These arms were also placed on a map of Estaires shown by Sanderus in his Flandria Illustrata (c. 1650).
Due to its strategic location, Estaires was disputed by the English, the French, the Flemish and the Spaniards, and totally burned down several times. In 1566 or 1568, the city was trashed by the Geuzen, those Calvinist Flemish who fought against the Spanish rule. The nickname given to the inhabitants of Estaires, les Baudets d'Estaires (the Donkeys from Estaires) might be related to the Geuzen, who are said to have showed round the town a donkey using the Corpus Christi's canopy. Other sources claim those events occured in 1793. Anyway, the "Donkey Cavalcade" is celebrated every Whit Monday. The jointed donkey craps oranges and candies and sometimes pisses liters of water. That tradition is of course related to the Giants, and there is a project in Estaires to build a Giant Jehan of Estaires.
On 16 May 1678, France and the Netherlands exchanged several enclaves, and Estaires was definitively incorporated to France. In 1789, Estaires had 5,225 inhabitants and was the most important center of table linen production in the north of France. On 26 March 1815, the "Royal Treasure Affair" took place in Estaires. Following the landing of Napoléon I in Golfe-Juan, King Louis XVIII and the Royal family fled from France to Ghent. A convoy of 300 people was completely stuck in the mud just after crossing the Lys. Coaches and carts were abandoned in the mud for the great benefit of the inhabitants of Estaires. It is said that some of the local fortunes date back to that day.
Being closed to the front line, Estaires suffered a great deal during the First World War. On 11 October 1914, the Germans used 40 civilians of the village to protect themselves when attempting to seize the bridge, to no avail but the death of the hostages. On 9 April 1918, the city was totally destroyed during the German breakout. In 2000, a 90 year old woman from Estaires was able to meet the family of the Australian surgeon who had saved her life after a bombing. Most research was done through the Internet. The surgeon had passed away in 1947 and his family had hitherto ignored why he had called his house "Estaires".
Sources: Official and historical websites of Estaires
Ivan Sache, 13 October 2002
The flag of Estaires is horizontally white-red with a counterchanged cross in the middle. As said above, this flag is a banner of the arms of Jehan of Estaires, a Crusader from the XIth century.
Ivan Sache, 13 October 2002