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St Quentin

ST QUENTIN, a manufacturing town of northern France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Aisne, 32 m. N.N.W. of Laon by rail. Pop. (1906) 49,305. The town stands on the right bank of the Somme, at its junction with the St Quentin Canal (which unites the Somme with the Scheldt) and the Ciozat Canal (which unites it with the Oise). The port carries on an active traffic in building materials, coal, timber, iron, sugar and agricultural produce. Built on a slope, with a southern exposure, the town is dominated by the collegiate church of St Quentin, one of the finest Gothic buildings in the north of France, erected during the 12th, 13th, 14th and 1sth centuries. The church, which has no west facade, terminates at that end in a tower and portal of Romanesque architecture; it has double transepts. Its length is 436 ft. and the height of the nave 124 ft. The choir (13th century) has a great resemblance to that of Reims; like the chapels of the apse it is decorated with polychromic paintings. There are remains of a choir-screen of the 14th century. Under the choir is a crypt of the 11th century, rebuilt in the 13th century, and containing the tombs of St Quentin (Quintin) and his fellow-martyrs Victoricus and Gentianus. The Champs Elysees, an extensive promenade, lies east of the cathedral. The h6tel-de-ville of St Quentin is a splendid building of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, with a flamboyant facade, adorned with curious sculptures. The council-room is a fine hall with a double wooden ceiling and a huge chimneypiece, partly Gothic partly Renaissance. A monument commemorates the siege of 1557 (see below), and another close to the river the part played by the town in 1870 and 1871. A building of the zoth century is appropriated to the law court, the learned societies, the museum and the library. St Quentin is the seat of a sub-prefect, of tribunals of first instance and of commerce, and of a board of trade-arbitration, and has an exchange, a chamber of commerce and lycees for both sexes. The town is the centre of an industrial district which manufactures cotton and woollen fabrics. St Quentin produces chiefly piqu6 and window-curtains, and carries on the spinning and preliminary processes and the bleaching and finishing. Other industries are the making of embroideries by machinery and by hand, and the manufacture of iron goods and machinery. Trade is in grain, flax, cotton and wool.

St Quentin (anc. Augusta. Veromanduorum) stood at the meeting-place of five military roads. In the 3rd century it was the scene of the martyrdom of Gaius Quintinus, who had come thither from Italy as a preacher of Christianity. The date of the foundation of the bishopric is uncertain, but about 532 it was transferred to Noyon. Towards the middle of the 7th century St Eloi (Eligius), bishop of Noyon, established a collegiate chapter at St Quentin's tomb, which became a famous place of pilgrimage. The town thus gained an importance which was increased during the middle ages by the rise of its cloth manufacture. After it had been thrice ravaged by the Normans, the town was surrounded by walls in 883. It became under Pippin, grandson of Charlemagne, one of the principal domains of the counts of Vermandois, and in 1080 received from Count Herbert IV. a charter which was extended in 1103 and is the earliest of those freely granted to the towns of northern France. From 1420 to 1471 St Quentin was occupied by the Burgundians. In 1557 it was taken by the Spaniards (see below). Philip commemorated the victory over the relieving force under the Constable Montmorency by the foundation of the Escurial. Two years later the town was restored to the French, and in 1560 it was assigned as the dowry of Mary Stuart. The SAINT-REALSAINTS, BATTLE OF THE fortifications erected under Louis XIV. were demolished between 1810 and 1820. During the Franco-Prussian War St Quentin repulsed the German attacks of the 8th of October 1870; and in January 1871 it was the centre of the great battle fought by General Faidherbe (below).

1. Battle of 1557. An army of Spaniards under Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, invading France from the Meuse, joined an allied contingent of English troops under the walls of St Quentin, which was then closely besieged. Admiral Coligny threw himself on to the town, and the old Constable Montmorency prepared to relieve it. On St Lawrence's Day, loth August, the relieving column reached the town without difficulty, but time was wasted in drawing off the garrison, for the pontoons intended to bridge the canal had marched at the tail of the column, and when brought up were mismanaged. The besiegers, recovering from their surprise, formed the plan of cutting off the retreat of the relieving army. Montmorency had thrown out the necessary protective posts, but at the point which the besiegers chose for their passage the post was composed of poor troops, who fled at the first shot. Thus, while the constable was busy with his boats, the Spanish army filed across the Bridge of Rouvroy, some distance above the town, with impunity, and Montmorency, in the hope of executing his mission without fighting, refused to allow the cavalry under the due de Nevers to charge them, and miscalculated his time of freedom. The Spaniards, enormously superior in force, cut off and destroyed the French gendarmerie who formed the vanguard of the column, and then headed off the slow-moving infantry south of Essigny-le-Grand. Around the 10,000 French gathered some 40,000 assailants with forty-two guns. The cannon thinned their ranks, and at last the cavalry broke in and slaughtered them. Yet Coligny gallantly held St Quentin for seventeen days longer, Nevers rallied the remnant of the army and, garrisoning Peronne, Ham and other strong places, entrenched himself in front of Cpmpiegne, and the allies, disheartened by a war of sieges and skirmishes, came to a standstill. Soon afterwards Philip, jealous of the renown of his generals and unwilling to waste his highly trained soldados in ineffective fighting, ordered the army to retreat (17th October), disbanded the temporary regiments and dispersed the permanent corps in winter quarters.

2. The Battle of 1871 was fought between the German I. army under General von Goeben and the French commanded by General Faidherbe. The latter concentrated about St Quentin on the 18th of January, and took up a defensive position on both sides of the Somme Canal. The Germans, though inferior in numbers, were greatly superior in discipline and training, and General von Goeben boldly decided to attack both wings of the French together on the igth. The attack took the customary enveloping form. After several hours' fighting it was brought to a standstill, but Goeben, using his reserves in masterly fashion, drove a wedge into the centre of the French line between the canal and the railway, and followed this up with another blow on the other bank of the canal, along the Ham road. This was the signal for a decisive attack by the whole of the left wing of the Germans, but the French offered strenuous resistance, and it was not until four o'clock that General Faidhei be made up his mind to retreat. By skilful dispositions and orderly movement most of his infantry and all but six of his guns were brought off safely, but a portion of the army was cut off by the victorious left wing of the Germans, and the defeat, the last act in a long-drawn-out struggle, was sufficiently decisive to deny to the defenders any hope of taking the field again without an interval of rest and reorganization. Ten days later the general armistice was signed.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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