Last modified: 2004-07-31 by ivan sache
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by Pascal Vagnat
The ville nouvelle of Villeneuve d'Ascq was created in
1970 in the eastern outskirts of Lille (north of France) by merging the
municipalities of Annapes, Ascq and Flers.
Although the most ancient village is probably Annapes, where Charlemagne founded a royal estate in order to improve the quality of malting barley and to standardize brewery, the ville nouvelle was named after Ascq to recall the massacre of 86 inhabitants of the village in 1944.
On 1 April 1944 in the evening, a train running from Tournai (Belgium)
to Lille was hit by an act of sabotage when crossing Ascq. This German
train transported 60 tanks and 600 soldiers from the 12th SS division to
Normandy. Commanded by lieutnant Hauck, the soldiers cought the 86 men
of the village and slaughtered them immediatly near the signal box. The
youngest victim was 15, the oldest was 74. The priest of Ascq was among
The massacre of Ascq caused a big stir. The puppet government of the French State officially protested that such acts would tarnish the good image of Germany in France (sic) and was answered that the "terrorists" had got what they had deserved. In spite of the prohibition of any rally, 20,000 people from the region of Lille attended the funeral of the victims. Cardinal Liénard expressed his compassion and his wrath in a courageous speech, in spite of having asked to remain silent.
During the Nuremberg trial, the massacre of Ascq was acknowledged as a war crime, since none of the victims had been involved in the sabotage, which was probably not aimed at that train.
Villeneuve d'Ascq has today 65,042 inhabitants and is the fourth biggest
economical pole in France, built around a universitary campus. The city
is linked to Lille by the VAL, the automatic train which was invented in
Villeneuve d'Ascq as well as the first miniaturized laser for
chirurgical use and the first CO2 laser surgical knife.
Villeneuve d'Ascq is also known for sport. There is an international meeting in athletics there every year and it is the home city of the cyclist Laurent Desbiens and the tenniswomen Sarah Pitkowski and Nathalie Dechy.
Museum of Modern Art Lille-Métropole, designed by architect Roland
Simounet (1927-1996) was inaugurated in Villeneuve d'Ascq on 13 november
1983. It was built to house the settlement made by Geneviève and Jean
Masurel to the Communauté Urbaine de Lille in 1979.
The origin of this collection dates back to 1905, when Roger Dutilleul (1873-1956) started to purchase pieces from the art merchants Vollard, Rosenberg and Kahnweiler. Dutilleul was among the first owners of paintings by Braque and Picasso. Since he was not very wealthy, he had to sell paintings to purchase new ones, as he did on 1908 when he sold his Fauvist paintings to buy Cubist ones. He also followed his very own taste, and for instance never bought painting by Matisse and Gris, which he did not appreciated. His nephew and heir Jean Masurel started his own collection in 1920, and later merged it with his uncle's collection. In 1979, the Masurel family decided that the collection was a part of national heritage and should be presented to the public into a museum. The Masurel settlement includes 219 paintings, drawings, engravings and sculptures. Represented artists are, among others, Braque, Laurens, Picasso, Léger, and Modigliani; the Fauvists Derain, Van Dongen and Rouault; the Surrealists Mason and Miro. The collection of contemporary art includes works by Baltz, Bieth, Buren, Deacon, Dezeuze, Gasiorowski, Leroy, Oppenheim, Mercier and Soulages.
In 1999, the association L'Aracine made a settlement of 3,000 works of primitive art (art brut) representing 170 artists. A part of this collection was originally shown in Nogent-sur-Marne. The collection should be shown in an extension of the Museum of Modern Art Lille-Métropole, designed by architect Manuelle Gautrand (b. 1961) and expected to be inaugurated in 2006.
Ivan Sache, 12 March 2004
The flag of Villeneuve d'Ascq is white with the logotype of the city. This logotype is made of a blue disc and a green leaf surmonting the name of the city in blue Italics letters. The graphical elements are separated from the writing by a thin blue stripe.
Pascal Vagnat, 12 March 2004